5. Puppy purchase scam
Scammers try to exploit dog lovers by offering cute puppies for sale on the web. In one instance documented by the BBB, a woman paid $850 for a Dalmatian puppy, only to receive additional requests for money — first $725 for travel insurance for the dog, then $615 for a special crate. In the end, the buyer lost $2,200 and never got the puppy — which didn’t actually exist.
How to stay safe: Go to an animal shelter and check out the dogs available there, before you search online. If you spot a puppy you like on a website, do a reverse image search to make sure it’s not a photo stolen from some other site. Insist on seeing the pet in person before paying any money.
6. Check washing scam
Though other payment modes are replacing them, checks are still used often enough for scammers to exploit. One trick is “check washing,” in which crooks steal checks from mailboxes and bathe them in household chemicals to erase the original name and dollar amount, leaving blank spaces they can fill in. It’s possible to convert a $25 check to one for thousands of dollars.
How to stay safe: The U.S. Postal Inspection Service recommends depositing your outgoing mail in blue collection boxes before the day’s last pickup, so it doesn’t sit for as long. At home, avoid leaving mail in your own mailbox overnight, and have your mail held by the post office or picked up by a friend or neighbor if you’re going to be away.
7. Free-gift QR code scam
This is a variation on a basic QR code scam that the FBI warned about: Scammers put fake codes over real ones to exploit the convenience of the barcodes people scan into their phones to see restaurant menus or make payments. Experian’s Bruemmer says scammers may call and say they’re going to send a QR code to your phone, so you can receive a free $100 gift card. In reality, the QR code may take you to a malicious website.
How to stay safe: If you receive a QR code out of the blue, contact the person or company that supposedly sent it, to make sure it is for real. Use a phone number you know is authentic.
8. `Oops, wrong number!' texts
Seemingly misdirected messages are increasingly the start of a scammer’s ploy. A text message addressed to someone else pops up on your phone. It seems urgent — a rescheduled business meeting, or maybe a romantic get-together. You text back, “Sorry, wrong number!” The scammer keeps up the friendly texts, and may eventually invite you to join an adult website to see revealing pictures so you hand over credit card info and money, or try to convince you to make a cryptocurrency investment (and take your money).
How to stay safe: Don’t respond to texts from numbers you don’t recognize. Don’t click on links in them or respond with “STOP” if the messages say you can do this to avoid future messages. Block the phone numbers they come from.
9. Fake barcodes on gift cards
Law enforcement agencies warn that nimble-fingered crooks affix fake barcode stickers over the real ones on the back of gift cards in stores. When you purchase the card, the cashier scans the fake barcode at checkout — directing your money into the scammer’s gift card account.
How to stay safe: With some gift cards, you can make sure the number of the barcode matches the number on the packaging. Or feel or gently scratch the barcode on a gift card before buying. Don’t purchase if the barcode is on a sticker, or if the package is ripped, wrinkled, bent or looks tampered with.
10. Crypto refund swindles
Beware if you’ve lost money in a cryptocurrency scam: Criminals set up fake “get your crypto cash back” websites, including one that looks like it’s from the U.S. Department of State. After luring targets, they contact those who respond by phone, email or social media and ask for personal ID information, including account numbers and passwords, plus an advance fee for their services payable by gift card, cryptocurrency or wire transfer. You get nothing, warns the FTC.
How to stay safe: Crypto investments aren’t insured by the government the way bank accounts are. For the most part, funds lost to crypto scammers are gone. Don’t trust anyone who contacts you saying they can get your money back, says Frank McKenna, chief fraud specialist for the fraud detection company Point Predictive.
11. Bank impersonator racket
Let’s say you’ve set up your bank or credit card online accounts so you can access them only with a live code sent from the institution. And let’s say a criminal has your bank or credit card username and password login and wants to steal from you. What would he or she do? In this increasingly common fraud, they call you, claiming to be from your bank and warning about a problem with your account. The caller tells you they’re emailing or texting you a “onetime passcode” for logging in and asks you to read it back to them for verification. In reality, the scammer’s login attempt triggered your bank to send you the passcode. Handing it over gives criminals full access to your account.
How to stay safe: Never give your onetime passcode to anyone who calls you. Hang up, find your institution’s phone number on a bank statement or on your credit card, and call. Ask if there really is a problem and report the con to the bank’s fraud department, McKenna recommends.
12. LinkedIn relationship fakes
A criminal might send you a message on LinkedIn, claiming to be just starting out in the same industry you’re in, seeking advice from a more experienced colleague. It’s flattering and fun to be a mentor, so you agree. You get to know each other, and eventually they ask to move your conversation onto a personal device, then lure you into a scam.
How to stay safe: A request to continue your chat on a more private channel is a warning. So is talking up crypto. LinkedIn may flag requests to go off-platform as it tries to remove fake accounts. But you should end the conversation and block the scammer.
13. ‘I’ve got your package, where’s your house?’ hoax
New package delivery scams include texts and phone calls purportedly from a professional-sounding delivery driver who can’t find your house. Didn’t order anything? They may try to convince you someone’s sent a gift. Or you may receive an email about rescheduling a drop-off or a fake “package delivery attempt” sticker on your front door. Their goal? To get you to provide personal information or simply click on a link they provide. That link then downloads malware that will harvest passwords and account info from your computer.
How to stay safe: Contact the seller or delivery service using a verified phone number, the FCC recommends. Don’t use numbers or links provided by potential scammers.
14. Out-of-stock item scam
Scammers often place fake ads on social media sites for products at too-good-to-be-true prices, take your order and payment info, then tell you the item’s not available right now. Your refund is on the way, they promise, but it never arrives. And you can’t reach anyone at the company about it.
How to stay safe: Research businesses online before you buy, and only shop on secure websites with a lock symbol in the browser bar and an internet address that begins with “https.” And pay by credit card, the FTC recommends. That way, you can withhold payment pending an investigation.