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Scam Awareness

Telephone and Internet Scams

Phone and Internet scams continue to plague consumers and it is important to protect yourself from becoming a target. The following is a synopsis of telemarketing and Internet scams to provide you with the basics of what to watch for. Complete details and additional information are available on the Federal Trade Commission’s website under “Consumer Protection.”

Telemarketing Scams

How Contact is Made

  • Cold calls
  • Direct mail  
  • Broadcast and print advertisements

Types of Phone Scams

  • Prize offers. Something is usually required to receive your “free” prize, such as attending a sales presentation, buying something, paying a fee or giving a credit card number.
  • Travel packages. Promises of “free” or “low cost” vacations that are usually anything but — and sometimes never happen at all.
  • Investments. These “get rich schemes” are couched as “investment opportunities” that promise high returns with little or no risk. Internet gambling is one example.  
  • Charities. The solicitor asks for an immediate contribution while refusing to send information about the charity. These scammers have also been known to use names that are similar to well-known charities.
  • Reloading scams. Those who have fallen victim to a scam are contacted again by a scammer who promises to recoup their money.
  • Foreign lotteries. These often take place in Canada as well as other areas such as Europe or Australia. Aside from being questionable at best, foreign lottery solicitations are against the law in the United States.  
  • Medical discounts. Scam artists reportedly contact senior citizens claiming to represent medical plan providers.
  • Expiring vehicle warranties. Scammers learn what type of vehicle an individual owns and when it was purchased to pitch overpriced or worthless extended car warranties.

Internet Scams

Scammers also use cyber technology to their advantage in what the FTC call Dot Cons. Here are some examples of ongoing Internet scams:

  • Internet auctions. “Virtual marketplaces" that offer a large selection of products at great deals. After sending money, consumers report they've either received an item that is less than the promised value or nothing at all.
  • Web Cramming. This scam offers a free custom-designed website for a trial period at no obligation. Consumers report being charged on phone bills or received an invoice, even if they never accepted the offer or agreed to continue the service.
  • Travel and vacation. The promise is a luxurious trip with many “extras” at a bargain-basement price. The reality is that consumers have reported some companies deliver lower quality accommodations and services than advertised or no trip at all, as well as hidden charges or additional requirements.
  • Business opportunities. This scam offers the chance to earn a great income with a home business. Many have invested in this “opportunity” only to find the opposite…and nothing to back up the claim of earning all that money.
  • Investments. The offer is an initial investment in a day trading system or service for immediate, large returns. No one can predict the market with 100 percent accuracy and consumers have lost money to this claim.  
  • Internet commerce. This scam involves buying or selling something over the Internet. Purchasers send more than the asking price and request the overpayment to be sent by wire or Western Union to another location.
  • Other Internet Scams. Scams can also come in the form of lotteries, secret shopper or requests needing assistance with moving funds to the United States.


If you have been subjected to or become aware of Internet fraud, you can file a complaint on the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) website. This site is a partnership of the FBI, National White Collar Crime Center and Bureau of Justice Assistance.

 Ways to Protect Yourself

Don’t be pressured to make an immediate decision.

  • Don’t provide or confirm personal or financial information to unknown callers.
  • Don’t provide or confirm personal or financial information to unsolicited email or online requests.
  • Acquire all information in print before you agree to buy.
  • Research charities before making a donation.
  • If the offer is an investment, check with federal and state securities and commodities regulators to see if it’s properly registered. Also talk with others who have invested through the program.
  • Research all unsolicited offers with the Better Business Bureau, a local consumer protection agency or the state Attorney General’s office.
  • Don’t hesitate to tell a telemarketer that you aren’t interested and hang up.
  • If you don’t want a business to contact you again, say so. If they call back, they’re breaking the law.
  • Additional steps to protect yourself are available on the FTC website.
  • If you have any questions or concerns about scams, please feel free to contact us.



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