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Online Scams

What is an online scam?

So much of our time is spent online — which is why scammers use the internet as their personal hunting grounds.

In addition to web scams and phishing scams, these specific scams are frequently found online. However, they can also be encountered offline.

No matter the approach, the goal of an online scam is always the same: to get your personal information and, eventually, your money.

Online scam examples

Here are a handful of common online scams. The more familiar you are with these tactics, the easier it will be for you to recognize and avoid fraud.

Free prizes

If something seems too good to be true, it probably is, especially when that something is a notification that you’ve won money, a trip, event tickets or some other big prize. To receive the false jackpot, targets must send their personal info and/or make a payment up front.


Like charity scams that request money for a so-called good cause, crowdfunding scams can target a large group of people on a seemingly legitimate website. Crowdsourcing scams add the promise of a return on investment, but the scammer ends up pocketing all the funds instead.

One-way transactions

A common red flag for an online scam is requiring payment for something in cryptocurrency or some other means that doesn’t give you many options once the money has left your pocket. Wire transfers, gift cards and cryptocurrency like Bitcoin all ensure that if you pay, it is almost impossible to get your money back.

How to avoid online scams

  • Beware of freebies — If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Never pay to get paid. Do some digging into any contests or lotteries you allegedly won. You’re likely to find reports of others who have fallen victim to the sham.
  • Don’t give in to gift cards — Easy to use and nearly impossible to get back, gift cards are a scammer’s best friend. Never send gift cards or cash, for that matter, to a person you’ve never met in person.
  • Check crowdfunding credentials — Before you help kickstart the next big thing, do your research. Seek out feedback on prior initiatives and comments from other backers to discover whether the recipient of your investment has a history of breaking their promises.

If you suspect you have been targeted by an online scam and have mistakenly provided your personal and/or account information to the scammer, please contact your local branch or our Customer Care Center at (800) 994-2500 (8:30 am - 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday) for assistance as soon as possible.

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