In January, the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois released its top 10 scam list for 2007.
1. Check Scams
Would-be victims receive a check in the mail, allegedly for winning a sweepstakes, lottery or promotion. The check supposedly covers taxes or other fees. The scammers will often place a reputable company on the forged check.
Here's how the scam works:
-- You deposit the check in your bank.
-- You then pay the fees described in the letter via a money transfer.
-- Unfortunately there isn't any prize money and your bank eventually will tell you that the check you deposited is a forgery.
-- You now owe the bank the money ($2,998.65 in the example below).
-- You try to track down the money you sent out via money transfer, which is just about impossible.
-- The scammers are now richer and you are poorer.
2. Advance Fee Lenders
These frequently will contact people by phone after they've filled out an online loan application or have found an advertisement in a local newspaper. This is a similar scam to the check scam described above.
3. Online Employment Offers
Offers that look for "shipping" or "billing managers," "payment processors" or anything with a financial sounding name very frequently turn out to be fraudulent listings that are, in actuality, looking for victims to commit money laundering.
Other fake online employment offers request money for travel, work visas, etc. Some scammers don't ask for money but instead ask for your personal info (name, date of birth, Social Security number, address, mother's maiden name) in order to steal your identity or sell your info to someone that will.
Be extremely careful when dealing with online employment. Don't send money to anyone. Use a company's main number and then ask for your contact within the company versus just dialing direct to the number you've been given in order to verify your contact really works at the company you're interested in.
4. Lottery/Sweepstakes Notification Letters
These are very much like the fake check scams.
5. Overpayment Scams
These usually are found in forms of online ads and typically in places such as classified forums on the Internet. A check overpayment scam begins when a scam artist replies to the classified ad or auction posting and offers to purchase the item for sale with a check, then comes up with a reason for writing the check for more than the purchase price for the item. The scammer asks the consumer to wire back the difference after the check is deposited. Later, the scammer's check bounces, leaving the consumer liable for the entire amount.
6. Mortgage foreclosure rescue scams
Scammers contact residents and offer them a desperate plan that is affordable and supposedly allows them to keep the home.
7. Marketing/Investment Scams
People are solicited by mail or e-mail and told they can make thousands of dollars working from home by buying a special kit, book or tape collection.
8. Inheritance Scam
An e-mail or letter is sent to the victim from someone claiming to be related to them, or from somebody that claims to know that the victim's distant relative is either very sick or has died and left inheritance money.
9. Phishing Scams
Generally, e-mails are sent from what looks like a legitimate bank or financial institution, asking for confirmation of account numbers and personal information.
10. Nigerian Scam
E-mails or letters are sent from someone claiming to be an official or agent from a foreign country, informing the recipient he or she is seeking a foreign company or individual into whose account they can deposit funds left over from government funds, a business bank transaction or a confiscated family inheritance.
Source: Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois and fightidentitytheft.com