Common Scams and Crimes

The following are some of the most common scams and crimes that the FBI encounters, as well as tips to help prevent you from being victimized. Visit the Bureau’s White-Collar Crime and Cyber Crime webpages for information on more fraud schemes.

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Results: 33 Items

  • Advance Fee Schemes

    An advance fee scheme occurs when the victim pays money to someone in anticipation of receiving something of greater value—such as a loan, contract, investment, or gift—and then receives little or nothing in return.

  • Business Email Compromise

    Business email compromise (BEC) is one of the most financially damaging online crimes. It exploits the fact that so many of us rely on email to conduct business—both personal and professional.

  • Business Fraud

    Business fraud consists of activities undertaken by an individual or company in a dishonest or illegal manner designed to be advantageous to the perpetrating person or establishment.

  • Charity and Disaster Fraud

    Charity and disaster fraud schemes seek donations for organizations that do little or no work. While these scams can happen at any time, they are especially prevalent after high-profile disasters.

  • Counterfeit Prescription Drugs

    Counterfeit prescription drugs are illegal, fake medicines that may be hazardous to your health.

  • Credit Card Fraud

    Credit card fraud is the unauthorized use of a credit or debit card, or card number, to fraudulently obtain money or property.

  • Elder Fraud

    Each year, millions of elderly Americans fall victim to some type of financial fraud or confidence scheme, including romance, lottery, and sweepstakes scams, to name a few.

  • Election Crimes and Security

    Fair elections are the foundation of our democracy, and the FBI is committed to protecting the rights of all Americans to vote. If you suspect a federal election crime, contact the FBI.

  • Fraudulent Cosmetics and “Anti-Aging” Products

    The Internet has given consumers widespread access to health and beauty products, including "anti-aging" products, that they do not know are fake.

  • Funeral and Cemetery Fraud

    Regulations for prepaid funeral services vary from state to state, providing a window of opportunity for unscrupulous operators to overcharge expenses and list themselves as beneficiaries.

  • Health Care Fraud

    Health care fraud is not a victimless crime. It affects everyone causes tens of billions of dollars in losses each year. The FBI is the primary agency for investigating health care fraud, for both federal and private insurance programs.

  • Holiday Scams

    When shopping online during the holiday season—or any time of year—always be wary of deals that seem too good to be true, and do your part to avoid becoming a scammer’s next victim.

  • Identity Theft

    Identity theft occurs when someone assumes your identity to perform a fraud or other criminal act.

  • Internet Auction Fraud

    Consumers are strongly cautioned against entering into Internet auction transactions with subjects exhibiting irregular behavior or making odd payment requests.

  • Internet Fraud

    Internet fraud is the use of Internet services or software with Internet access to defraud victims or to otherwise take advantage of them.

  • Investment Fraud

    Investment fraud is an offer using false or fraudulent claims to solicit investments or loans, or providing for the purchase, use, or trade of forged or counterfeit securities.

  • Letter of Credit Fraud

    Letters of credit frauds are often attempted against banks by providing false documentation to show that goods were shipped when, in fact, no goods or inferior goods were shipped.

  • Market Manipulation (“Pump and Dump”) Fraud

    This scheme—commonly referred to as a “pump and dump”—creates artificial buying pressure for a targeted security, generally a low-trading volume issuer in the over-the-counter securities market largely controlled by the fraud perpetrators.

  • Money Mules

    A money mule is someone who transfers or moves illegally acquired money on behalf of someone else. Some money mules know they are supporting criminal enterprises; others are unaware that they are helping criminals profit. Don't be a mule.

  • Nigerian Letter or “419” Fraud

    Nigerian letter frauds combine the threat of impersonation fraud with a variation of an advance fee scheme in which a letter mailed, or e-mailed, from Nigeria offers the recipient the “opportunity” to share in a percentage of millions of dollars that the author—a self-proclaimed government official—is trying to transfer illegally out of Nigeria.

  • Non-Delivery of Merchandise

    Non-delivery of merchandise is a scheme most often linked to Internet auction fraud, but also can be considered a form of business fraud in certain cases.

  • Online Vehicle Sale Fraud

    The FBI warns consumers that criminal perpetrators may post fraudulent online classified advertisements offering vehicles for sale that are not, nor have ever been, in their possession.

  • Ponzi Schemes

    “Ponzi” schemes promise high financial returns or dividends not available through traditional investments. Instead of investing the funds of victims, however, the con artist pays “dividends” to initial investors using the funds of subsequent investors.

  • Prime Bank Note Fraud

    The purpose of these frauds is generally to encourage the victim to send money to a foreign bank, where it is eventually transferred to an off-shore account in the control of the con artist. From there, the victim’s money is used for the perpetrator’s personal expenses or is laundered in an effort to make it disappear.

  • Pyramid Schemes

    As in Ponzi schemes, the money collected from newer victims of pyramid schemes is paid to earlier victims to provide a veneer of legitimacy. In pyramid schemes, however, the victims themselves are induced to recruit further victims through the payment of recruitment commissions.

  • Ransomware

    Ransomware is a type of malicious software, or malware, that prevents you from accessing your computer files, systems, or networks and demands you pay a ransom for their return.

  • Redemption / Strawman / Bond Fraud

    This scheme predominately uses fraudulent financial documents—often referred to as “bills of exchange,” “promissory bonds,” “indemnity bonds,” “offset bonds,” “sight drafts,” or “comptrollers warrants”—that appear to be legitimate.

  • Reverse Mortgage Scams

    Reverse mortgage scams are engineered by unscrupulous professionals in a multitude of real estate, financial services, and related companies to steal the equity from the property of unsuspecting senior citizens or to use these seniors to unwittingly aid the fraudsters in stealing equity from a flipped property.

  • Romance Scams

    Romance scams occur when a criminal adopts a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust. The scammer then uses the illusion of a romantic or close relationship to manipulate and/or steal from the victim.

  • Sextortion

    Sextortion is a crime that involves adults coercing kids and teens into sending explicit images online. The FBI has several resources to help caregivers and young people better understand what sextortion is, how to protect against it, and how to talk about this growing and devastating threat.

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