Common Types of Fraud and Scams
Scammers are constantly finding new ways to steal your money. You can protect yourself and your family by knowing what to look out for. Here are some of the most common types of fraud and scams. Learn what to watch for and what steps to take to keep yourself, your loved ones, and your money safe.

A charity scam is when a thief poses as a real charity or makes up the name of a charity that sounds real in order to get money from you. These kinds of scams often increase during the holiday season as well as around natural disasters and emergencies, such as storms, wildfires, or earthquakes.

What to do: Look up the charity through their website or a trusted third-party source to confirm that the charity is real. Learn more about how to avoid a charity scam.

Most debt collectors will contact you to collect on legitimate debts you owe. But there are scammers who pose as debt collectors to get you to pay for debts you don’t owe or ones you’ve already been paid. In most cases, a legitimate debt collector will provide you with information about the debt during or shortly after the first communication. This information may arrive as a letter often called the “validation notice.” If you don’t receive this information, you can ask for it.

What to do: Don’t provide any personal financial information until you can verify the debt. You can use this sample letter to request more information. Read more about the warning signs.

After someone dies, scammers may check obituaries or other legal notices and contact the deceased’s relatives, posing as a debt collector. If you receive such a contact, the scammers are trying to get your personal or financial information in order to steal your money or commit identity theft or other types of fraud.

What to do: When someone dies with an unpaid debt, it’s generally paid with money or property left in the estate.

As with other scams, always avoid giving anyone your Social Security number, birth date, or financial account numbers, unless you know who you’re dealing with. Learn more about what happens to a debt after someone dies.

Foreclosure relief or mortgage loan modification scams are schemes to take your money or your house, often by making a false promise of saving you from foreclosure. Scammers may ask you to pay upfront fees for their service, guarantee a loan modification, sign over the title of your property, or sign paperwork you don’t understand.

What to do: If you are having trouble making payments on your mortgage, a HUD-approved housing counselor can help you assess your options and avoid scams. If you think you may have been a victim of a foreclosure relief scam, you may also want to consult an attorney. Read more about foreclosure relief scams.

If you get a call from someone who sounds like a grandchild or relative asking you to wire or transfer money or send gift cards to help them out of trouble, it could be a scam.

What to do: Read more about other ways to protect older adults from fraud and financial exploitation.

In a lottery or prize scam, the scammers may call or email to tell you that you’ve won a prize through a lottery or sweepstakes and then ask you to make an upfront payment for fees and taxes. In some cases, they may claim to be from a federal government agency.

What to do: Avoid providing any personal or financial information, including credit card or Social Security numbers, to anyone you don’t know. Also, never make an upfront payment for a promised prize, especially if you are required to make immediate payment. Learn more about lottery or prize scam red flags.

Mail fraud letters look real but the promises are fake. A common warning sign is a letter asking you to send money or personal information now in order to receive something of value later. Examples of mail fraud might include notices of prizes, sweepstakes winnings, vacations and other offers to claim valuable items.

What to do: The USPS has identified common postal or mail fraud schemes . If you’re a victim of mail fraud, you can file a complaint through the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

A romance scam is when a new love interest tricks you into falling for them when they really just want your money. Romance scams start in a few different ways, usually online. Scammers may also spend time getting to know you and developing trust before asking you for a loan or for access to your finances.

What to do: Be smart about who you connect with and what information you share online. Don’t share sensitive personal information, such as bank account or credit card numbers or a Social Security number, with a new love connection. Learn more about how to avoid romance scams.

Scammers use money wire transfers to steal your money. One example of a wire transfer fraud is the “grandparent scam,” where a scammer poses as a grandchild or a friend of a grandchild and say they’re in a foreign country and need help. Once a money transfer is picked up, there is very little you can do to get your money back.

What to do: Never transfer money without making sure that the person you’re trying to help really needs your help and is who they say they are. You can do this by reaching out to the person yourself, using the contact information you have for them. If you made a money transfer to a scammer, contact the bank or company immediately and ask if it can be reversed. Learn more about wire transfer scams.


If you’re a victim of a scam, you can report it to the authorities by:

This content was provided by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. For the full text:

Additional Fraud Resources:

Return to the main Fraud page