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Common Fraudulent Schemes

"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," this may be a cliché but it is very true. The following frauds have come to this department's attention in the past and citizens should be aware of these schemes.


Winning Foreign Lottery
The latest fraud that has been reported is a phone scam where the person being targeted is told they have just won a foreign lottery. The caller then goes on to tell the victim that in order to process this prize the victim must post some front money. A credit or debit card usually posts the money. The transaction is processed in Canada or some overseas account. No legitimate contest ever requires money from the winner.

West African (Nigerian) Based Schemes
This fraud has been circulating in the United States since the late 1980's. Letters, faxes or e-mails targets individuals, businesses, learning institutions and governments.

Unsolicited Nigerian fraud letters promote several products, services and investment opportunities such as:

  • Real Estate
  • Oil Products
  • Over-invoiced contracts and other contract fraud
  • Distribution of monies from wills and currency conversion etc.

Most of the fraudulent letters begin with and an opportunity to receive substantial return on investment. Once the victims participate in the plan, the Nigerian promoter requests that front monies be deposited in a bank account overseas. Once hooked, the victims commit more and more money to the schemes as they do not want to lose the money they already invested. Importance is always placed on urgency and secrecy in the negotiations.

The Pigeon Drop
The victim is approached by a stranger and engaged in a conversation. When the con artist has gained the victim's confidence, he/she mentions a large amount of money that they or an acquaintance has found. Second person joins the stranger and they discuss that whoever lost the money probably came by it unlawfully. One of the con artists indicates he/she works in the area and decides to contact his/her employer for "advice". He/she returns in a few minutes and states that his/her employer has counted the money and verified the amount and said they should keep and divide the money three ways. They are then instructed to each put up "good faith" money to show evidence of financial responsibility and good faith before collecting a share. The victim is then induced to withdraw his/her share from their bank and the con artist takes the money to his/her "employer." The con artist then disappears and the "employer" cannot be found.

The Bank Examiner
A phony bank or saving and loan "investigator" contacts the victim and asks for his/her help in catching a dishonest employee. The victim is asked to go to their bank, make a cash withdrawal and then turn the money over to the bank examiner who will verify the serial numbers and catch the suspected employee. When the money is turned over to the phony bank examiner or "investigator," he or she disappears with it.

Family Assistance
An individual will send an email stating they are an alleged family member who is in jail, sick, or has an emergency, and requires immediate financial assistance. They request that money be wired to a location which is usually out of state or out of the country.  This scheme is typically attempted against those who are elderly.