Protect Yourself from Fraud and Scams

Scammers use social engineering to trick people out of their money, personal information, or into performing another action. There are many different types of scams being used to steal from victims.

What is Social Engineering?

Social engineering is how scammers trick their victims into sending them money or revealing personal information. They use many tactics to achieve their goals.

  • Fear
    Fraudsters will try to scare their victims.  They will be convinced they will be arrested, or their family members will be hurt or arrested.  They will try to convince people they will lose their government benefits or their jobs if directions are not followed.
    • Trust
      Criminals try to create a sense of trust with their victims.  They convince them that they are on the victim’s side and just looking out for their best interests.
      • Personal Gain
        Scammers convince people that they have a large sum of money for the victim.  They claim they have won a large cash prize, inherited a large amount of money, or are being offered a high paying job.
        • Romance
          These scammers convince people that they care for them and want a relationship with them.
          • Extorsion
            Fraudsters may find out personal details about their victims and threaten to release this information if their demands are not met.  Scammers have been known to create false photos to try to blackmail their victims.
            • Sympathy
              Criminals claim to be from charities collecting funds for disasters or sick individuals.
              • Scam Sales
                Scammers post ads selling items.  The victim sends the money and gets no goods in return.  These ads often seem too good to be true, which they are.
                • Refund
                  Scammers claim they refunded too much money to the victim and need it sent back to them.

                  How criminals deliver social engineering

                  • Phishing
                    The most common type of scam.  Billions of phishing emails are sent daily.  Phishing is the most common way for criminals to first contact their victims.
                  • Scareware
                    Ads that pop up on computers try to scare users.  The pop up says things like:
                    • Your computer is infected
                    • Illegal content has been detected on your device
                    • Antivirus program is expired
                  • Vishing
                    Voice Phishing.  Scammers reach victims by phone and try to defraud them.
                  • Smishing
                    Using Text Messages to scam people.  They use links to fake webpages, or to steal login credentials.  They give false numbers to call.
                  • Malware
                    Malicious software that may disable a computer or spy on the users
                    • Keyloggers
                      This software tracks everything entered using the keyboard.  It records usernames and passwords.
                    • Ransomware
                      This software encrypts the files on a computer making them unusable and unrecoverable unless a ransom is paid.
                    • Data miners
                      This software steals data from the computer and sends it to the cybercriminal
                    • Browser password harvesters
                      This software steals passwords saved in internet browsing software
                  • Malicious Websites
                    These are websites that deliver bad software or steal usernames and passwords

                  Common scams to watch for

                  There are many, many scams out there.  These are some of the most common, because the scammers know they work a lot of the time, and they have a lot of experience with them.  There are many variations of these scams, but many common scams fall into one of the following categories.

                  • Romance
                    • People online claim to want a relationship with someone.  They ask for money or talk about how their troubles are and try to get the victim to volunteer to send them money.  They claim to need money for travel to meet the victim, but always have an excuse why they did not show up.  The victims develop a sense of trust with the scammer and do not want to believe that they are being scammed. 
                  • Refund
                    • This scam starts with a fake invoice sent through email.  When the victim calls the number in the email to request a refund, the criminals request access to the victim’s bank account. They then transfer a large amount of money between the victim’s accounts, then claim that they made a mistake in refunding money and the difference needs to be sent back to them.
                  • Grandparent
                    • Scammers claim that the victims’ grandchildren have been arrested or pretend to be one of their grandchildren and need bail money or money for something else.  They then give instructions on where to send the payment.  They try to create a sense of urgency and fear to keep the victim from verifying the claim with their family members.
                  • Investment
                    • The criminals try to convince the victim to invest in no risk, high return investments.  The money invested by the victim is then stolen.
                  • Prize
                    • Scammers claim you have won a large amount of money through a lottery, or other contest.  They just need a fee to send you the prize.  They keep coming up with excuses as to why the prize has not arrived and why they need more money.
                  • Arrest threats
                    • The victim is told that they have violated some law or regulation and are going to be arrested unless they send money immediately.  
                  • Government agencies
                    • The criminal pretends to be from a government agency such as the IRS, Social Security Administration, or police department.  They claim that there is a problem with their benefits, or the victim owes money.  Scammers can be very threatening in these situations to scare their victims into making a payment.
                  • Loans
                    • Loans are promised with no credit check, the victim just needs to send a processing fee.  Once the fee is paid, the loan is never received.  
                  • Selling / buying scam
                    • When selling something online, the scammer asks for your payment account, then claims to have sent the money.  They may send a fake confirmation email to the victim’s email address.  The seller ships the goods without ever receiving payment.  
                    • Criminals also post ads for goods or services online.  These deals often seem too good to be true, and they almost always are.  The victim sends payment, and the goods are never shipped.  
                  • Counterfeit check
                    • The victim receives a check in the mail with instructions to cash it and send back some of the funds to the scammer.  The check is always counterfeit and the victim is liable for cashing or depositing the check. 

                  Warning signs to look for

                  • Watch for people pretending to be from an organization you know
                    • Banks
                    • Government agencies
                    • Law enforcement agencies
                  • Someone claiming there is a problem or a prize
                  • Someone trying to pressure you to act immediately
                    • They try to create a sense of urgency or fear to make you act without thinking
                  • Someone trying to get you to pay in an unusual way
                    • Wires
                      • Once a wire transfer is sent, it usually cannot be recalled
                    • Gift Cards
                    • Bitcoin
                    • Payment Apps
                  • They keep making excuses as to why rewards or refunds have not arrived 
                  • Claims that seem too good to be true
                  • Government agency claims
                    • Verify the identity of anyone claiming to be a government official
                  • Something just doesn’t seem right
                    • Trust your feelings if something seems off

                  How to avoid scams

                  • Never give your passwords to anyone for any reason
                  • Use multi-factor authentication whenever available
                    • Multi-factor authentication is using a device such as your cell phone to get a code to verify your identity.
                  • Never give out security or multifactor authentication codes to anyone for any reason
                  • Never let anyone on your computer
                    • Do not install remote access software such as TeamViewer, LogMeIn, or AnyDesk.
                    • These programs give them complete access to your computer.  
                  • Never buy gift cards or Bitcoin to pay anyone
                    • This is a sure sign of a scam.  Legitimate companies would never accept payment in this way.
                  • Don’t trust people you don’t know asking for any money
                  • Never ship goods you are selling without verifying that payment has been received through a legitimate payment channel.  Never send payment for goods without verifying the legitimacy of the seller. 
                  • Verify claims.  Do not use numbers given to you by the scammer or in emails.  Use published trusted phone numbers to verify claims.

                  What to do if you are scammed

                  • Immediately stop all contact with the scammer
                    • Hang up the phone
                    • Block texts
                    • Do not make any more payments
                    • Beware of other additional scammers 
                  • Secure your financial accounts
                    • Report compromised accounts to the financial institutions they come from.  See if the fraudulent transactions can be canceled or reversed.
                    • Notify the credit bureaus.  Ask them to add a fraud alert.  A freeze can be placed on your credit if necessary.  
                  • Secure your computer
                    • If scammers accessed, or had you installed any software on your computer, you may need to seek the assistance of computer repair technicians to remove malware and viruses.  
                  • Change your account passwords
                    • If any passwords were given out, or the scammers accessed your computer, change those passwords.  Make sure to use strong, unique passwords for each account.
                  • Report the scam based on the nature of the scam
                    • Report the scams to the appropriate agencies such as: 
                      • Local Law Enforcement: Consumers are encouraged to report scams to their local police department or sheriff’s office, especially if you lost money or property or had your identity compromised.
                      • Federal Trade Commission: Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or use the Online Complaint Assistant to report various types of fraud, including counterfeit checks, lottery or sweepstakes scams, and more.
                      • If someone is using your personal information to open new accounts, make purchases, or get a tax refund, report it at This federal government site will also help you create your Identity Theft Report and a personal recovery plan based on your situation. Questions can be directed to 877-ID THEFT.
                      • Indiana consumer protection:  Scam complaints can be reported to the Indiana Consumer protection Division at 
                      • Better Business Bureau (BBB): Reporting to the BBB Scam Tracker can help others become aware of scams that may be circulating in your local area.
                  • Many other online sources are available to learn about scams and fraud.  Please see the following resources to learn more about scams and how to respond to them.