The dawning of a new year for many is an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and resolve to do more in the months aheadâ€”lose more weight, be more generous, and, of course, make more money. Unfortunately scammers of all stripes will be seeking their own fortunes in 2007, often by preying on the public's general affinity to get something for nothing.
Fraud appears in many ways and robs innocent victims of billions of dollars every year. Mortgage fraud alone is estimated to have cost $1 billion in 2005 and is expected to be a continuing problem in 2007â€”a recent analysis shows mortgage loan fraud reports rose 35 percent in the past year. Internet fraud last year cost victims $183 million, much of it through bogus online auctions and the non-delivery of goods.
As the new year emerges with its infinite possibilities, add another resolution to the mix-resolve not to be a victim. Don't fall for scams designed to steal your identity or your money. Be vigilant with your personal data, know what scams are lurking, and be mindful of the golden rule "If it looks too good to be trueâ€¦," which happens to have its own website: lookstoogoodtobetrue.
Here is a short list of scams to be aware of. It is by no means complete, but offers a glimpse of ways scammers try to take what is yours. More information can be found on our Common Fraud Schemes page and at LooksTooGoodToBeTrue. Meanwhile the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) keeps a running list of emerging Internet scams.
The links below describe different types of fraud and offer tips on how to protect yourself:
Telemarketing Fraud: When you give personal or financial information to unknown callers, you increase your chances of becoming a victim of fraud.
Nigerian Letters or "419" Fraud: A letter, often mailed from Nigeria, offers the recipient the "opportunity" to share in a percentage of millions of dollars.
Identity Fraud: The sources of information about you are so numerous that you cannot prevent the theft of your identity. But you can minimize your risk of loss by following a few simple hints.
"Ponzi" Scheme: A Ponzi scheme is essentially an investment fraud wherein the operator promises high financial returns or dividends not available through traditional investments.
Internet Auction Fraud: Understand as much as possible about how an auction works, what your obligations are as a buyer, and what the seller's obligations are before you bid.
Scams Targeting Senior Citizens: The elderly are targeted for fraud for several reasons: they are more likely to have a "nest egg," they are typically more trusting, and they are less likely to report-or realize-they have been scammed.
Mortgage Fraud: It's one of the fastest growing white-collar crimes in the U.S. We list seven common mortgage loan fraud schemes, including "flipping," when property is purchased, falsely appraised at a higher value, and then quickly sold.
Combating major white-collar crime is one of the FBI's top priorities. You can learn more about our efforts on our White-Collar Crime page. And you can do your part to help us by being vigilant and not falling for promises of quick riches in 2007.