Individuals and Families

Individuals and Families > Consumers > Consumer Tips > Consumer Tips Scams


Signs of a Scam

  • Being asked to wire money to a stranger or friend in need
  • Being selected for a mystery shopping job, especially if you never applied
  • Pressure to “act now!”
  • Being asked to buy a prepaid money card
  • Sending money in advance to secure or insure a loan
  • Winning a contest you’ve never heard of or entered
  • Having to pay a fee to receive your “prize”
  • Requests for your personal information
  • Requests for a large down-payment
  • A company that refuses to provide written information

Types of Scams

Advance Fee Loans

Scam artists can trick you into paying money to qualify for a loan or credit card. Despite their guarantees, you do not receive a loan, credit card, or any money. Never pay money to qualify for a loan, credit card, or grant.

Credit Repair Scams

Companies charge hundreds of dollars by promising to restore your credit and quickly erase debt, but do little or nothing to improve your credit. If you need to repair your credit or consolidate debt, you can arrange payment plans and improve your credit score yourself for little or no cost through a nonprofit credit counseling agency.

Computer Repair Scams

An “employee” of a computer company contacts you claiming your computer has a virus and offers to “fix the problem.” The person will likely ask you to allow them access to your computer, which then allows the scammer to install malicious software designed to scan your computer for personal information or to lock your computer so that you cannot use it until you pay the scammer “ransom” to unlock it.

Fake Check Scams

Someone sends you a check or money order, which you are asked to deposit in your account and wire-transfer the sender a portion of the money, minus a nice bonus for you as a “thank you” for helping out. Regardless of the pitch, the result is the same: The check or money order you receive is counterfeit. It will be returned to your bank unpaid, and the full amount will be deducted from your account. Never wire-transfer money to a stranger.

Foreclosure Rescue Scams

In exchange for an upfront fee, scam artists might promise to save your home from foreclosure by obtaining loan modifications or lower interest rates. They instruct you not to contact your lender directly. You may risk losing your money and your home. Contact Save the Dream Ohio at 888-404-4674 or to be connected to a certified housing counselor or legal assistance.

Friend-In-Need Scams

If contacted by a friend or family member, usually by e-mail or social media, asking you to send money immediately, beware that it may be an imposter or hacker. Before sending money, contact your friend or family member directly, using a different method of communication, and ask a question only your friend or family member would know how to answer.

Home Improvement Fraud

This occurs when contractors or companies don’t complete the work they were paid to do. They offer false promises and often disappear without doing any work or after doing a poor job. Always obtain at least three estimates, get everything in writing, and check references. Contractors who knock on your door are required by law to provide you with a three-day right-to-cancel prior to beginning any work.

Identity Theft

This occurs when someone fraudulently uses your personal information, such as your bank account number or Social Security number, to obtain credit, take out a loan, receive medical treatment, get identification, or otherwise pretend to be you. Never give personal information to anyone you don’t know or trust, especially when solicited over the phone.

Imposter Scams

Someone may contact you pretending to be from a government agency – like the IRS or the local court. The person will demand immediate payment, likely for back taxes or an old court fee, and threaten arrest if payment is not made immediately. The scammer may also request personal information, such as your social security number.

Job Opportunity Scams

Some scammers ask job seekers to pay high fees for information, training sessions, or promotional materials that turn out to be useless. The jobs are either nonexistent or very low paying. If a job opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Online Shopping Scams

Whether you are shopping or networking online, watch out for scams designed to steal your identity and your money. If you are selling something online and someone sends a check for more than the asking price, it usually is a scam. Don’t send money or the item you are selling before you are sure it’s not a scam. Don’t wire-transfer money to a stranger. Help protect yourself by using a secure website to purchase items online. Their addresses begin with “https” rather than “http.”

Phone Fraud

Don’t trust your caller ID. Scam­mers use technology called Voice over Internet Protocol or “spoofing” to disguise the number that ap­pears on your caller ID. The caller ID may show your bank or a local area code, when the call is actually coming from a scammer in another country. If you receive a call ask­ing for your personal or financial information, hang up. Your bank or government agency will never request your Social Security number or account information over the phone.


Some scammers pretend to be your bank or a gov­ernment agency to “phish” for your personal informa­tion. They ask you to update or confirm your account by submit­ting your bank account number, password, or Social Security number. Never respond to unexpected requests for your personal information. Your bank or the Internal Revenue Service will never request your personal information over the phone or by e-mail.

Phony Charities

You receive a call or letter asking you to make a charitable donation from someone who is only pretending to represent a charity. Before you donate, research a charity with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office by calling 800-282-0515 or visiting

Sweepstake and Prize Scams

Someone may fictitiously claim you have won the lottery, a contest, or other prize. In order to collect your winnings, however, you’ll be asked to pay an advance fee, often via wire-transfer or money order. This is a scam. Legitimate sweepstakes are free and require no purchase.