There are many ways to measure the largest scams, but most measure them by the number of people affected and the total dollars scammed.
Our list focuses on the scams that you could avoid, those reported to the CFR, FTC, Fraud.org and BBB (Better Business Bureau). For detailed explanations of each scam, how to report a scammer and how to protect yourself, click on the blue titles below for more information! To see federal and select state top 10 scam lists, click here.
And to see a list of other type of top 10 scams, such as by category, or targeting specific groups, see this page.
1. Internet merchandise scams
You purchase something online, but it is either never delivered or it is not what they claimed it was, or is defective.
2. Phishing/Spoofing Emails
Emails that pretend to be from a company, organization or government agency but ask you to enter or confirm your personal information
3. Fake Prizes, Sweepstakes, Free Gifts, Lottery Scams
You receive an email claiming you won a prize, lottery or gift, and you only have to pay a “small fee” to claim it or cover “handling costs”. These include scams which can go under the name of genuine lotteries like the UK National Lottery and the El Gordo Spanish lottery. Unsolicited email or telephone calls tell people they are being entered or have already been entered into a prize draw. Later, they receive a call congratulating them on winning a substantial prize in a national lottery. But before they can claim their prize, they are told they must send money to pay for administration fees and taxes. The prize, of course, does not exist. No genuine lottery asks for money to pay fees or notifies it’s winners via email.
4. Fake check payments
You sell something online or through Craig’s List Consumers and you’re paid with phony checks, and instructed to
wire money back to buyer. The check looks real… but after you try to cash it, you find out it is a fake; and you’re arrested for passing a counterfeit check! Read more about scam checks on this page and here about the EBay check scam.
5. Recovery/Refund Companies
A scammer contacts and claims you owe money on a debt or the scammer offers to recover money lost in a previous scam
6. Loans Scams / Credit Fixers
False promises of business or personal loans, even if credit is bad, for a fee upfront. Or a scam that promises to repair your credit for a fee.
7. Computer Performance Scams: Equipment and Software
Scammers claim to offer technical support for computer problems and charge a fee to fix nonexistent problems
8. Scholarship, Student Loan and Financial Aid scams
for a fee, a research company offers to conduct a customized search for scholarships or grants for students to apply for. Scammers take the money and run or provide a worthless list
9. Online Dating Scams
Fake profiles of scammers posing as attractive men and women, then claiming they need money to help in an emergency, typically when they claim to be out of the country on a business trip.
10. Facebook Fake Friend Scam – Did you ever get a Friend Request on Facebook from someone you already thought was your Friend? If you hit Accept, you may have just friended a scammer. Con artist nurtures an online relationship, builds trust, and convinces victim to send money.
And here are the next dozen most common scams:
11. Click Bait Scam – This one takes many forms, but many people may recall seeing those using Robin Williams death or the Malaysian Airline plane that went missing (click here for video). Other click bait schemes use celebrity images, fake news, and other sensational stories to get you to unknowingly download malware.
12. Fake bills and invoices – “Pro forma” invoicing: You get a bill that looks real, but either you never ordered the product or service, or they’re not really the company you bought it from.
13. Tech Support Scam: You get a call or a pop-up on your computer claiming to be from Microsoft (or Norton, or Apple) about a problem on your computer. They say if you give tech support access to your hard drive, they can fix it. Instead, they install malware on your computer and start stealing your personal information.
14. Medical Alert Scam – This is a telemarketing scam that promises a ‘free’ medical alert system, that scam targeted seniors and caretakers. The robocalls claimed to be offering the medical alert devices and system free of charge because a family member or friend had already paid for it. In many cases, seniors were asked to provide their bank account or credit information to ‘verify’ their identity and, as a result, were charged the monthly $35 service fee. The system, of course, never arrived and the seniors were left with a charge they had trouble getting refunded. Easy rule of thumb – be wary of ‘free’ offers that require your personal information upfront and always verify with the supposed friend or family member that the caller says paid for the service.
15. EBay / Auction Reseller Scam – Scammers posing as buyers persuade sellers into shipping goods prior to receiving payment. Usually the fake buyer claims it’s an ’emergency’ like a child’s birthday and asks the seller to ship the same day. The seller receives an email that appears as though it came from PayPal for the payment, but emails like that are easy for scammers to fake.
16. Arrest Warrant Scam – Scammers create a fake Caller ID, which allows them to call you and appear to be calling from a local police, sheriff or other law enforcement agency. They say there is a warrant out for your arrest, but that you can pay a fine in order to avoid criminal charges. Of course, these scammers don’t take credit cards; only a Western Union MoneyGram, other wire transfer or pre-paid debit card will do.
17. Invisible Home Improvements – In addition to email, mail and phone, scammers now just show up at your door. Scammers posing as home improvement contractors come door-to-door sale and target seniors, those who live alone, and victims of weather-related disasters are common targets
18. Casting Call Scam – Scammers pose as agents or talent scouts looking for actors, singers, models, reality show contestants, etc., and use phony audition notices to fool aspiring performers into paying to try out for parts that don’t exist.
19. Foreign Currency Scam – Investments in foreign currency can sound like a great idea, and scammers frequently use real current events and news stories to make their pitches even more appealing. They advertise an easy investment with high return and low risk when you purchase Iraqi Dinar, Vietnamese Dong or, most recently, the Egyptian Pound. The plan is that, when those governments revalue their currencies, increasing their worth against the dollar, you just sell and cash in. Unlike previous hoaxes, you may even take possession of real currency. The problem is that they will be very difficult to sell, and it’s extremely unlikely they will ever significantly increase in value.
20. Scam Text Messages – It looks like a text alert from your bank, asking you to confirm information or ‘reactivate your debit card’ by following a link on your smart phone. But it is just a way to steal personal information
21. Do Not Call Scams – The National Do Not Call Registry (U.S.) or the National Do Not Call List (Canada) offer consumers a free way to reduce telemarketing calls. Scammers call anyway, of course, and they’ve even found a way to scam consumers by pretending to be a government official calling to sign you up or confirming your previous participation on the Dot Not call list!
22. Affordable Care Act Scams (Obamacare) – Scammers love the Affordable Care Act (‘Obamacare’), using it as a way to fool Americans into sharing their personal information.