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Scams & Fraud

Spotting the Scam

Being aware of frauds and scams is increasingly crucial in our digital society. Scams can take many forms, such as unsolicited emails, fake websites, and phone calls from strangers pretending to be reputable organizations. Scammers will use different tactics to deceive people to steal money or personal information. To stay vigilant, members of the public should remain informed regarding the most common types of scams and frauds. Below are helpful tips to keep you and your family’s information safe.  

How to Spot a Scam

In an era where scammers are becoming increasingly more sophisticated, it can be challenging to discern deceitful tactics from legitimate communication. However, there are several indicators that can assist you in identifying a scam. By familiarizing yourself with these warning signs, you can safeguard yourself from falling victim to a scam. Consider the following useful tips to help you recognize a scam: 

Unsolicited Messages

Be wary of any message you did not expect or initiate. Scammers often use unsolicited emails, text messages, and phone calls to reach out to potential victims.  

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Types of Scams

If you, or someone you know, has been a victim of an online scam, please report the activity to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Internet Crime Complaint Center or your local police department

Romance Scams

These scams specifically target people who are looking for love and/or companionship. Scammers behind these schemes will create elaborate fake identities, use fake pictures and acquire personal information to gain the trust of their victims. They may spend weeks or even months building a relationship with their victim before asking for large amounts of money. Often claiming they need funds for a medical emergency, to travel to meet the victim in person, or to purchase gifts. Once they have gained the victim's trust and convinced them to part with their money, schemers will typically ask for wire transfers, often exceeding $100k or more. In most recent cases, some victims lost up to $400k or more over a few months. 

Lottery Scams

Scammers use a clever trick of printing last week's winning lottery number on a current ticket, making it appear to be a winning ticket. Then they will approach strangers and request a "deposit" for the winning ticket. These scams frequently target low-income individuals, and the scammers will pose as undocumented individuals who cannot submit the winning tickets due to their immigration status. Though these scams may net smaller amounts, this can impact lower income communities greatly. Remember to only buy lottery tickets from authorized retailers and never give away personal information or money to strangers. 

Investment Scams

One of the most common approaches for investment scams is to offer high rates of return in a short timeframe, such as promising to double your money in “just 30 days”. These scams typically use fake investment websites that are designed to look legitimate and may even use actual phone numbers that are answered by real people. In some cases, victims have lost millions of dollars in a single transaction. To protect yourself from investment scams, it is essential to do your homework and thoroughly research any investment opportunity before investing your money.  

Police Car Lights
Pay or Get Arrested  

Some scammers will use “cold calls” and pretend to be law enforcement officials to threaten victims with arrest or legal action unless they pay a large fine. They may claim the victim has failed to show up for jury duty and use real names from public safety officials or "fake caller ID" numbers to make the scam seem legitimate. Remember legitimate law enforcement officials will never demand payment over the phone. Protect yourself by never giving out personal information or payment over the phone to someone you don't know and report the scam to the authorities immediately. 

Email & Text Message Scams

Scammers may send emails posing as reliable companies, like Gmail or Microsoft, to deliver fraudulent requests to reset your password in order to trick you into providing your password or other personal information. While these attempts may seem legitimate, they are an unlawful attempt to deliver unsecure links to gain access to your email, computer, or other accounts. The most common text messaging scams involve criminals posing as your bank with a fraudulent message about someone attempting to charge $500 to your card asking you to verify the transaction and/or card number. It's important to be cautious and never provide personal information or money to someone you don't know or trust. Remember to always verify the sender's identity and be wary of unsolicited messages. 

Gift Cards Scams

Criminals have begun tampering with gift cards that are on store shelves by taking note of the gift card numbers and replacing the scratch-off tape; leaving the card looking untouched. This tactic allows criminals to use the card balance for themselves, once they have been purchased in-store. Another common type of gift card scam involves unsolicited emails or text messages offering gift cards in exchange for personal information or payment. These offers may seem legitimate but are designed to trick you into providing sensitive information or money. It's important to only purchase gift cards from reputable retailers and inspect the card carefully before purchasing.  

Other Top Scams & Frauds

For a list of other scams and frauds to watch out for, visit the OC Sheriff webpage to learn more about:


  • Social Security Phishing 

  • Tech Support 

  • Online Employment 

  • Taxes  

  • Utilities  

  • Online Item for Sale (Craigslist, Facebook marketplace) 

  • Warrant for your Arrest 


Fraud Can Fund Terrorists Cells

 From wire fraud to identity theft and cybercrime, understanding the common tactics empowers individuals and organizations to protect themselves against potential threats. Recognizing the nuances of each type of fraud enables individuals to identify warning signs and develop preventive measures. Stay vigilant about the leading forms of fraud. 

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