Advance Fee Scams involve payment that is typically made using gift cards, wire transfer, pre-loaded debit cards or cryptocurrency, and you are usually promised a much larger sum of money in return. After payment is made, the scammer is nowhere to be found and you are left with nothing or even worse, owing money to your financial institution if you drew on funds from a fraudulent check deposit.
These scams can be very difficult to spot, as they usually come from what seems to be a legitimate business or individual. Let’s review this scam and the red flags you should look out for.
Red Flags of an Advance Fee Scam
- An offer for a free or low-cost trial period for a specific service, only to find out a payment is required upfront before the trial begins
- A large return on investment is guaranteed, with the condition of an upfront payment
- You are asked for personally identifiable information (PII), as well as your debit card number or bank account number in order to make sure you “qualify” for the offer
- Payment requests come in the form of wires, funds loaded onto a prepaid debit card or a prepaid gift card, in order to receive the promised goods or services
- Threatening legal action if you do not make the payment
- Pressuring you to act quickly and/or using threatening and urgent language
- Fake websites or email addresses that may appear to be legitimate
- The person you’re dealing with is reluctant to give you their contact information
How to Spot a Scam
- Slow it down — Scammers will always act with a sense of urgency in order to get you to make a decision before you even have time to think about it. Take your time and ask a lot of questions to avoid being rushed into a bad situation. Their goal is to make you fall for their scheme quickly before you realize it’s actually a scam.
- Spot check — Do your own research to fact check the details the scammer is providing. A quick internet search of the person or organization who contacted you along with the words “scam” or “complaint” should help you determine if it’s actually a scam.
- You can also Google website and email addresses. Chances are they have been used in other scams and may have been reported.
- Stop! Don’t send — Scammers will attempt to steal your money by rushing you into making a payment using unconventional methods like gift cards, cryptocurrency or wire transfers. If they insist you pay using one of these methods, it’s more than likely a scam.
If you think you are a victim of an Advance Fee Scam:
- Immediately stop all contact with the individual(s) who contacted you
- Save all of the information about the individual(s) and the messages they sent in case you need to take some sort of legal action. This important information is also helpful for a police report.
- If you did provide any of your financial information, like your credit/debit card number or bank account information, contact your bank or credit card company immediately. They may be able to assist you with canceling the transaction or getting your money back.
- If you paid by using a gift card or a wire transfer, contact the issuer. They may be able to help you stop and cancel the transaction
- If you provided PII, keep an eye on your credit report and financial accounts for any unusual activity and consider placing a freeze on your credit and bank accounts
It’s imperative to report any type of cybercrime to not only help yourself, but other people, to avoid falling victim to a scam. The more people that report scams and fraud, the more national reporting data is collected, which can give law enforcement a better chance of catching the criminals and help decrease cybercrime. Remember, report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission and be sure to file a police report. For more tips to help protect your personal and financial information, check out our other blogs on Privacy & Cybersecurity. If you believe your information has been compromised or you think you are a victim of identity theft, we’re here to help! Contact us at 866-224-1379.