There are a few ways that mystery shopping scams emerge, but this one is pretty crafty.

Who Is It Targeting: Those looking for extra income

What Is It: A phishing scam that snares you once you cash their check

What Are They After: The scam involves a cashier’s check for a few thousand dollars that arrives out of the blue. You’re instructed to cash the check at your bank, buy several $500 Walmart gift cards, then keep the remaining money for yourself, typically a few hundred dollars. After you send photos of the gift cards’ numbers and PINs to the scammers, your bank finally discovers that the cashier’s check was faked. The entire amount is then deducted from your account while the scammers have already used the gift cards.

How Can You Avoid It:

  • There is no such thing as free money.
  • If someone pays you hundreds of dollars for a simple task that takes only a few minutes, then something fishy is going on.
  • If you do have to cash a check for any reason, it’s wise to either cash it at the issuing bank or hang onto the money until it has cleared; if the check is no good, you can always return the cash to your account.

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. Find more information about current scams and alerts here. For full details of this scam check out this article from PalmBeachPost.com.

It can’t be said enough: “You will never be required to pay for anything via prepaid debit card.”

Who Is It Targeting: California retirees

What Is It: A spoofed call that claims you owe money to your retirement fund

What Are They After: Retirees in California have now been warned about repeated scam phone calls claiming the victim owes money to the state’s retirement fund. Failure to make payment means your pension will be cut off, a scary thought for unsuspecting individuals on a fixed income. The clincher is this: payment MUST be made via prepaid debit card, which is a tell-tale sign of a scam.

How Can You Avoid It:

  • NEVER make payment to someone who calls you and claims you owe money.
  • Instead, take their information and call the organization yourself using a contact method that you looked up, not a number the caller provided (it could lead right back to their phones).
  • There is no legitimate reason why you will ever be required to make a payment of any kind using a reloadable gift card, prepaid debit card, or another untraceable payment method.

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. Find more information about current scams and alerts here. For full details of this scam, check out this article from SacBee.com

Scammers trying to sell you an extended warranty on your vehicle.

Who Is It Targeting: Auto owners

What Is It: A spoofed phone call that claims to offer vehicle warranties

What Are They After: By using a spoofer to change their phone number, the scammer tries to sell you an extended warranty by claiming that your existing warranty is about to expire. Here’s the way to know it’s a scam: if you ask which vehicle, model, make, or the dealership where you purchased it, the caller doesn’t know. Why? Because they don’t actually work for a legitimate company. But that won’t stop them from asking for your credit card number to purchase this bogus coverage.

How Can You Avoid It:

  • If you’re ever in doubt about the status of your vehicle’s warranty, a quick call to the dealership can answer it for you.
  • If you do wish to purchase additional warranty terms for your vehicle, again, your dealership can point you in the right direction.
  • Never give your credit card, debit card, or bank account information to someone who contacts you over the phone.

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. Find more information about current scams and alerts here. For full details of this scam check out this article from The Jefferson Journal.

Text alerts are a great tool for protecting your accounts but are also an open door for scammers.

Who Is It Targeting: Cell phone owners

What Is It: A phishing scam that tries to get you to click a link

What Are They After: Even just a handful of years ago, if you got a text message warning about your bank account, you might automatically think something suspicious was going on. Now, thanks to the great security tool of text alerts for your bank account and credit card accounts, scammers can entice you into clicking a link because of a warning message. No matter how genuine it might appear, never click that link.

How Can You Avoid It:

  • Phishing scams work by getting you to open an attachment, click a link, or download some content; all of those can install harmful software on your device.
  • If you get a message about a problem with your account, ignore the message but contact your financial institution immediately.
  • Once the matter is resolved and reported, go back and delete the text message.

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. Find more information about current scams and alerts here. For full details of this scam check out this article from WSET.com.

Those emails from Amazon asking you to verify your account aren’t real.

Who Is It Targeting: Amazon customers

What Is It: A phishing scam that tries to get you to click on a link.

What Are They After: Amazon is one of the world’s largest retailers, so it’s a safe bet that you have an Amazon account. At least, that’s what scammers are thinking. When they send you an email that is covered with Amazon logos and stylistic font, you’re more likely to click the link to verify your account. But that’s the last thing you should do if you want to protect your information, your account, and your computer. Once you re-enter your username and password in the fake verification form, the scammers have your password. They’ll change it in order to lock you out, and then their shopping spree on your credit card begins.

How Can You Avoid It:

  • Never click a link or open an attachment that you weren’t expecting.
  • Understand that companies will never contact you out of the blue in order to verify your account information.
  • Do not share your username or password with anyone, whether by phone or online; even Amazon employees cannot see your password.

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. Find more information about current scams and alerts here. For full details of this scam check out this article from BBB.org.

Text alerts from your financial institution can be helpful, but only if they’re the real deal.

Who Is It Targeting: Bank customers

What Is It: Phishing scam that appears to originate from your bank

What Are They After: Scammers have taken to sending out thousands of text messages at a time, hoping to land on a customer who falls for it. Using the name of a well-known bank, the text states there’s something wrong with your account. You reply to the text or call the included phone number, only to be directed to enter your name, account number, PIN number, and more. Once the scammers have all that information, they drain the funds from your bank account and there’s little that your bank can do about it.

How Can You Avoid It:

  • If you receive any kind of text, email, or phone call that you weren’t expecting, do not provide money or information.
  • Instead, disconnect from them and contact your bank yourself to verify the security of your account.
  • Never share your PIN number with anyone, not even a bank employee; in fact, if you’re asked for the PIN number on your account, you can rest assured it’s probably a scam.

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. Find more information about current scams and alerts here. For full details of this scam check out this article from SacBee.com.

Officials in Florida have arrested a scammer who took in money for his phony veterans’ foundation.

Who Is It Targeting: Consumers concerned with veterans’ issues

What Is It: Bogus charity scam

What Are They After: One man who stole more than $20,000 on the pretense that he was operating a veterans’ charity is now facing charges. After a photo of the man taken with the local sheriff—at the scammer’s request—was used to promote the charity, reports came into the sheriff’s department about shady dealings the victims had had with the individual.

How Can You Avoid It:

  • Always investigate any charity before you donate.
  • Avoid “impulse” donations, but rather do your homework and select your charity based on your findings.
  • Remember, charities and non-profits need your support all throughout the year; plan your contributions so that you won’t feel pressured to give on the spot.

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. Find more information about current scams and alerts here. For full details of this scam check out this article from PalmBeachPost.com.

A Florida woman is out $1000, but at least her grandson is safe.

Who Is It Targeting: Primarily senior citizens

What Is It: Phishing scam that uses threats of harm or violence

What Are They After: A grandmother in Florida followed the caller’s instructions to a tee, and it cost her $1000. After falsely being told her grandson had been arrested and needed to post bail, she was instructed to purchase two $500 gift cards from a local retailer then provide the card number and PIN number to the callers.

How Can You Avoid It:

  • If you’re instructed to use only one of those methods, the call is a scam.
  • Never make a payment or verify your information to someone who contacts you by phone, email, or text.
  • You will never be required to make any legitimate payment via gift cards, iTunes cards, wire transfer, or prepaid debit cards.

If you think you may be a victim of a scam or identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. Find more information about current scams and alerts here. For full details of this scam check out this article from Gainesville.com

The FTC has charged three defendants in this recent case of get rich quick fraud.

Who Is It Targeting: Tech users

What Is It: A scam that sold “codes” to be used for discounts online

What Are They After: The three defendants, in a recent case brought by the FTC, sold specialty “income generating software” to consumers that allegedly could result in thousands of dollars a day in income. In reality, though, the software the perpetrators sold to their victims was bogus. Further, their spam emails didn’t include the option to stop receiving the emails, and visitors to their website were harassed with repeated popup boxes.

How Can You Avoid It:

  • There is no such thing as earning money for doing nothing.
  • Anyone who tells you that you can earn tens of thousands of dollars a month just by installing some software is deceiving

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. Find more information about current scams and alerts here. For full details of this scam check out this article from FTC.gov.

A lot of internet users have never heard of Bitcoin, and scammers like it that way.

Who Is It Targeting: Email users

What Is It: A phishing scam to get you to hand over your money and information

What Are They After: There is no shortage of Bitcoin scams running these days, and many scammers actually hope you don’t know much about the cryptocurrency. Bitcoin is a type of currency that can be used for online transactions, many of them untraceable. Despite its shady uses—such as buying and selling items online that are highly illegal—Bitcoin is actually a viable form of currency. The email claims that a high-value amount of Bitcoin was placed in your account, and you are to click the link to see the transactions. Of course, the link contains harmful software that will infect your computer.

How Can You Avoid It:

  • Never click a link or open an attachment in an email unless you were expecting it, no matter who it was from, due to account hacking.
  • No one will ever send you free money, despite what their message claims.
  • Emails like these are intended to get you to follow through with their instructions (i.e., clicking the link), but don’t do it.

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. Find more information about current scams and alerts here. For full details of this scam check out this article from ABC News.