17 Everyday Scams That Americans Need to Watch Out For

Millions of Americans fall victim to scams every year, conned out of their money by people who know exactly what to say. And as scammers get smarter, watching your back online is essential because almost anything could be a con nowadays. To help, we’ve compiled 17 of the most common scams Americans must watch out for.

Fake Investment Opportunities

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Though text messages have made it easy for fraudsters to target victims at a distance, plenty of them still call. This tactic puts the victim on the spot after the scammer tells them they’ll miss out on the opportunity otherwise. Real investment opportunities will never try to force a decision like that, especially unsolicited and over the phone.

Charity Fraud

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Scammers prey on your good nature and desire to help people, which is why charity fraud has become an everyday scam. If you receive unexpected communications from a supposed charity, check the charity’s name, registration number, and founder. If it doesn’t seem legitimate, it likely isn’t, and you should avoid donating any money.

Romance Scams

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Romance scams aren’t new, but social media has made it much easier for fraudsters to contact and catfish people. The Federal Trade Commission reported losses of $547 million to romance scammers in 2021, and they’re only getting bolder. Never send money to a stranger you’ve met online, especially if they try to bond quickly without sharing their own personal information.

Parcel Delivery Scams

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These scams are easy for con artists to target lots of people with because they’re typically sent out via text message. Victims receive a message stating that their parcel cannot be delivered and are asked to click a link, requesting personal information like their address, bank account login, and credit card number, giving scammers access to their money.

False Giveaways

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A good rule of thumb is that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. That’s often the case with giveaways on social media. You might get an unsolicited message stating that you’ve been randomly selected to win an expensive product, but when you get in contact, the scammer attempts to get your banking details instead.

Celebrity Scams

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It’s everybody’s dream to be contacted by their favorite celebrity but beware of con artists using this to their advantage. Forrit Credit Union warns of the different types of celebrity scams, which include selling forged autographs, fraudulent product endorsements, and fake charities set up in the famous person’s name, all designed to extract money from fans.

Tax Return Fraud

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It’s almost time to file taxes, so watch out for tax return fraud. This simple scam happens when a thief files a tax return under your name and then pockets the refund themselves. All they need to do this is your name, birth date, and Social Security number. Set up an Identity Protection PIN with the IRS to protect yourself.

Lottery Scams

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Over 180 million Americans play the lottery every year, hoping to win a life-changing amount of money. Scammers use this to their advantage and target individuals, claiming to be from a legitimate lottery and then requesting that they pay up-front fees to access their winnings. Avoid giving out personal information, and report suspected lottery fraud to the Federal Trade Commission.

Ponzi Schemes

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This is a type of investment scam with just enough hints of truth to make it seem legit. They make money by convincing people to invest in an imaginary company and then recruiting further investors, stealing the money while promising a massive payout. According to Ponzitracker, Ponzi schemes hit a record high in 2023, courtesy of brazen con artists.

Snake Oil Sales

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Snake oil scams stretch back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when entrepreneurs masqueraded mineral oils as medical snake oils. We use this term today to describe the sale of worthless medicines, which heartless scammers advertise as real cures to take money from vulnerable people. Always trust verified medical professionals to get the best treatments for your money.

Concert Ticket Scams

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Concert tickets are already expensive, but falling foul of a scam can cost you even more. If you’re looking to buy resale tickets, beware of so-called ‘sellers’ on social media, who will offer tickets at a more reasonable price but never deliver them. Buying resale tickets through sites like Twickets and Ticketmaster, which protect transactions, is best.

Phony Friends and Family

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This is another everyday scam that plays on the empathy of good people in order to steal from them. Victims receive a social media message from somebody posing as a friend or family member and pretending to be in trouble. The aim is to get the victim so worried that they send money, unaware that a fraudster is pocketing it.

Fake Online Stores

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It’s great that anyone can make an extra living online, but you need to look out for fraudsters hopping on this trend, too. Even things as little as bad spelling on the website, low prices for typically expensive products, and bad buyer reviews can give away a fake online store that will take your money for products that don’t exist.

Bogus Weight Loss Products

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This common scam can be very dangerous. Fraudsters market weight loss pills, creams, or patches as ‘miracle’ ways to lose weight without dieting or exercise. The FTC has warned that some even steal logos from actual companies to hoodwink consumers. Bogus products are inactive at best and contaminated at worst, which could make people ill.

Mobile Game Scams

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While some mobile apps, like Mistplay, do let you win money from playing games, plenty of phony apps make money themselves by tricking players. They’ll ask you to set up a bank transfer and promise large payoffs for completing easy tasks like playing for an hour or watching ads, but take your money instead.

Fake Parking Tickets

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If you drive, you’ll know how difficult it can be to find suitable parking in busy cities. Scammers operate in these areas, scouting out parked cars and leaving fake parking tickets on them. A report by The Sun US found that some fraudsters now use QR codes, which redirect victims to payment apps like PayPal or Venmo.

‘Become a Millionaire’ Education

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With the number of millionaires in the US growing, some con artists are hopping on educational courses and video trends to manipulate hopeful consumers. They sell this content online, promising that recipients will soon ‘make their first million’ as a result of this advice. These scammers aren’t millionaires themselves, and their courses are incredibly misleading.

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