Common Scams and How to Avoid Them

Crooks are always looking for new ways to get their victims’ money, but there are a few scams they keep coming back to—and people keep falling for. In honor of National Consumer Protection Week (March 4-10), Bank of American Fork is offering tips for how to avoid four common scams:

Mortgage Transfer Scam

Typical scenario: You get an official-looking letter in the mail stating that your mortgage has been sold with an address where you are to send all future payments. You begin sending your payments to the new address, but within a few months receive collection letters and phone calls suggesting you are behind on your mortgage payments.

How to avoid getting scammed: Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by an organization with an official-sounding name. Since having your mortgage sold is not an uncommon occurrence, be sure to check with your original mortgage lender to verify loan transfers. Your original mortgage lender should send you a letter prior to your being contacted by a new loan servicing company.

Classifieds/Online Auction Scam

Typical scenario: You post an item for sale on a classified or online auction website and then get contacted by a buyer who represents himself as an individual that lives out of state or outside of the U.S. The buyer offers to pay using a money order or cashier’s check made out for significantly more than the sale price of the item to cover shipping costs. You are asked to deposit the counterfeit check and ship the merchandise, along with the excess check amount, to the requested address. After you’ve shipped the item, your bank informs you the check was counterfeit. You have been scammed out of the item, the cost of shipping and the funds returned for overpayment.

How to avoid getting scammed: Never send money to a buyer. Only accept offers for which the buyer pays your exact asking price with cash or through a third-party payment provider, such as PayPal®. 

Lottery Scam

Typical scenario: You receive an email notification claiming you have won a foreign lottery. In order to claim the winnings, you are instructed to contact a claims agent. The agent sends a claim form and asks you to return the form with personal details, along with copies of a passport and/or driver’s license to “verify identity.” The fraudsters now have information to duplicate your identity. In addition, in order to claim the winnings, you are asked to wire funds to the fraudsters to cover the transaction, insurance, tax and legal fees associated with receiving your winnings.

How to avoid getting scammed: If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Never provide personal information like passports, driver’s license numbers or Social Security numbers to strangers or unverified companies. You will never be asked to wire funds for winning a legitimate lottery. And if you get notified that you won a lottery you never entered, the lottery is likely a scam. 

Mystery Shopper Scam

Typical scenario: You receive an official-looking email or letter in the mail from a mystery-shopping company with a check included. The letter instructs you to cash the check and complete a shopping assignment with the funds at a major retail store. You are then instructed to send the unspent portion of the check to another mystery shopper (the fraudster) via Western Union®. When the check does not clear, you are responsible for the secret shopper charges and the funds wired.

How to avoid getting scammed: Do not wire money to companies that have supposedly hired you. Only wire money to people you know and trust. Check the Mystery Shopping Providers Association for a list of legitimate mystery-shopping companies. While the list from the MSPA is not comprehensive, it ensures that listed companies go through an approval process and agree to uphold ethical standards.

For more information about fraud prevention and consumer protection, visit Bank of American Fork’s Security Center at


*PayPal® is a registered trademark of PayPal, Inc.

This article should not be considered legal or investment advice. Seek legal and investment advice from your own qualified professional. Facebook is a trademark of Facebook Inc. LinkedIn is a registered trademark of LinkedIn Corporation and its affiliates in the United States and/or other countries. Twitter is a trademark of Twitter Inc.


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