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What are some common types of scams?

Scammers are constantly finding new ways to steal your money, from blackmail to romance scams to selling nonexistent items. Learn about the warning signs of common fraud and scams so you can protect yourself and others.

Common types of fraud and scams

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.

Blackmail scams

A blackmailer’s mission is to scare you into sending them money by threatening to distribute private content—from your computer or phone, or shared with them over an email, text, or social media—that could embarrass you. They might ask you to wire them money, or send it using a mobile app, a gift card, or cryptocurrency. Sometimes these scammers are complete strangers and other times they might be someone you met online and thought you could trust.

What to do: Try to stay calm in spite of blackmailers’ intimidation and high-pressure tactics. Stop communicating with them and don’t pay them. Keep all messages as evidence to help law enforcement. Keep in mind that you don’t need to deal with this alone.

If you’re a minor, let an adult you trust know what’s happening and report the threat to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline .

Report blackmail to the police and to your local Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) field office , by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI, or online at . You can also report threats involving the internet, such as when a mobile payment app is involved, to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at . If the threat involves social media, consider reporting it to the social media company.

Charity scams

A charity scam is when a thief poses as a real charity or makes up the name of a charity that sounds real to get money from you.

These scams often increase during the holiday season as well as after natural disasters and emergencies, such as storms, wildfires, or earthquakes. Be careful when a charity calls to ask for donations, especially ones that suggest they’re following up on a donation pledge you don’t remember making. Also watch for scammers that try to get you to donate by using live streaming on social media platforms, altered images, or images or voices generated by artificial intelligence (AI). They typically ask you to send money online, often using cryptocurrency, so they can get your money quickly.

What to do: Ask for detailed information about the charity, including address and phone number. Look up the charity through their website or a trusted third-party source to confirm that the charity is real.  See more steps to take to avoid a charity scam .

Debt collection scams

Debt collectors might 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.

What to do: Ask the debt collector for their company name and mailing address and information about the debt they say you owe. Be on the lookout for threats of criminal charges or other warning signs. Read more about warning signs of a debt collection scam.

Debt settlement and debt relief scams

Debt settlement or debt relief companies often promise to renegotiate, settle, or in some way change the terms of a debt you owe to a creditor or debt collector. Dealing with debt settlement companies, though, can be risky and could leave you even further in debt.

What to do: Avoid doing business with a company that guarantees they can settle your debts, especially those that charge up-front fees before performing any services. Instead, you can work with a reputable nonprofit credit counseling program that can help you work with your creditors.  Learn more about the risks of working with a debt settlement or relief company and other help that might be available.

FDIC logo misuse

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) logo is displayed on buildings, websites, advertisements, and other materials from its member banks. Sometimes, a scammer displays the FDIC logo, or says its accounts are insured or regulated by the FDIC, to try to assure you that your money is safe when it isn’t. Some of these scams could be related to cryptocurrencies.

What to do: Double-check whether the business is an FDIC-insured bank by using the lookup page on the FDIC’s BankFind site .

Foreclosure relief or mortgage loan modification scams

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 might ask you to pay upfront fees for their service, guarantee a loan modification, ask you to sign over the title of your property, or ask you to sign paperwork you don’t understand.

What to do: If you are having trouble making payments on your mortgage, a Housing and Urban Development  (HUD)-approved housing counseling agency 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 find legal help through your local bar association or legal aid. Learn more about mortgage loan modification scams.

Grandparent 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. Artificial intelligence has made it easier for scammers to clone voices and alter images to make it seem like someone you know needs help. Meant to play on your emotions, this scam is among those commonly used to target older adults, especially during the holidays.

What to do: Beware of a caller who insists on secrecy and contact your relative yourself to verify the story. If you can’t reach them, try to get in touch with them through another trusted person, another family member, or their friends. Read more about other ways to protect older adults from fraud and financial exploitation.

Impostor scams

Impostor scammers try to convince you to send money or share account details by pretending to be someone you know or trust, like a government employee. Some people, specifically older adults, have received phone or video calls from scammers using CFPB employees’ names.

The CFPB does NOT get in touch with people to tell them to pay fees or taxes related to a class-action lawsuit or lottery. You won’t need to send us personal information so that you can cash a check we send you.

Scammers might pose as law enforcement and threaten you with legal consequences if you don’t send money, or they may pretend to be a charity organization seeking donations. Other messages might look like they are coming from a bank or another company, claiming there’s been a hack, potentially fraudulent activity, or other problem, in a scam meant to get your account or personal information.

What to do: Remember, caller ID and emails can be faked, voices can be cloned, and images can be altered. Call the bank, company, organization, or government agency directly and ask if the person works for them and if there really is a problem. Read more about impostor scams .

Lottery or prize scams

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

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

Mail fraud

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: To learn more, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has identified common postal or mail fraud schemes . The US Postal Inspection Service also provides tips on mail fraud and where to report suspicious mail and related scam emails or texts. Read more about how to recognize and report mail fraud.

Man-in-the middle scams

Man-in-the-middle scams are a type of cyberattack where a scammer tricks you into connecting to a fake network or website, or clicking on a fake QR code, text or email link, or attachment. Once you do, the scammer can see your every move and steal information like account logins and passwords, financial data, or other sensitive personal information. These scammers can also impersonate another person you’re communicating with—like your real estate or settlement agent in a mortgage closing scam—so that you think you’re sending payment to the person you know, when it’s really going to the scammer.

What to do: Avoid public wireless networks and free charging stations in public places. Don’t click on QR codes or links, or download attachments, in unsolicited texts or emails. Carefully examine email addresses and website URLs, even if they appear to be from someone you know. Before you send money, verify that the person you know is the one requesting it and that you have the correct payment information. If you think you’ve been impacted by a man-in the-middle scam, you can also file a complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at

Money mule scams

A money mule is someone who receives and moves fraudulently obtained money. While some money mules know they’re assisting with criminal activity, others are unaware that their actions are helping fraudsters.

Money mules may be recruited through online job or social media posts that promise easy money for little effort. They may also agree to help a love interest who they’ve met online or over the phone, by sending or receiving money, as part of a romance scam.

What to do: Don’t agree to receive or send money or packages for people you either don’t know or haven’t met. Also, be aware of jobs that promise easy money. Learn more about the red flags and what to do if you think you might be involved in a money mule scam.

Money transfer or mobile payment services fraud

Con artists use money and wire transfers to steal people’s money. If someone you don’t know asks you to send money to them—even if they say they are from a government agency—it should be a red flag.

Using mobile payment services only with family, friends, and others you know and trust is the safest way to protect your money as you use the services. You should still be cautious when people you do know ask you to send them money. Before you send money, verify that they are really the ones requesting it.

What to do: Never send money to someone you don’t know. If you think you made a money transfer or mobile app payment to a scammer, contact your bank or the company you used to send the money immediately and alert them that there may have been an unauthorized transaction. You can also file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at .

Mortgage closing scams

Mortgage closing scams target homebuyers who are nearing the closing date on their mortgage loan. The scammer attempts to steal your closing funds—for example, your down payment and closing costs—by sending you an email posing as your real estate agent or settlement agent (such as your title company, escrow officer, or attorney).

What to do: These schemes—a common type of man-in-the-middle scam—are often complex and appear as legitimate conversations with your real estate or settlement agent. When you’re about to close on your home, identify trusted individuals who can confirm the process and payment instructions, and write down their names and contact information so you can reach out to them directly. Learn more about what steps you should take to help protect your closing funds.

Romance scams

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 spend time getting to know you and developing trust to fool you into thinking the relationship is real before asking you for money, a loan, or access to your finances.

What to do: Be careful about who you connect with and what information you share online, or over texts or social media. Don’t send money or 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.

Sale of nonexistent goods or services scams

Scammers use mobile payment apps to trick people into sending money or merchandise without holding up their end of the deal. For example, a scammer may offer to sell you concert or sports tickets, or a puppy or other pet, but then never actually give them to you. Or a scammer might purchase an item from you, appear to send a payment, and then cancel it before it reaches your bank account.

What to do: Never send money to someone you don’t know. If you think you made a payment to a scammer, contact your bank or the company you used to send the money immediately and alert them that there may have been an unauthorized transaction. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at .

Common payment methods used by scammers

Never send money to someone you don’t know. Scammers use a variety of ways to collect money from you, including:

  • Wire transfers
  • Money transfers
  • P2P (peer-to-peer or person-to-person) payment services and mobile payment apps
  • Gift cards
  • Cryptocurrency

Learn more about common frauds and scams

Suspect a scam? Report it!

Contact your local police or sheriff’s office and your state attorney general.

Report consumer scams to the Federal Trade Commission

You can also report scams involving the internet, such as scams involving mobile payment apps, to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at .

Learn about more steps you can take right away to report a scam or fraud.