The Ultimate Guide to Scams

guide to scams

You never think you’ll be the victim of a scam, until you are. Many people don’t realize that scams are everywhere and anyone can become a victim. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, there are scammers out there who want your money and personal information. 

Today, the internet makes scamming easier than ever. It creates opportunities for mass-scale deceit and theft like we’ve never seen before. This is great news for scammers, but bad news for you!

So what can you do? Arm yourself with knowledge about scams and take steps to reduce your risk. Start today before it’s too late!


Who Do Scams Typically Target?

You may think the only people who fall for scams are ignorant or uneducated. But the truth is anyone can be a victim, even people who “should know better.” 

Criminals are always coming up with new ways to get money or personal information. People tend to fall for their schemes for two reasons: it seemed realistic or it seemed like a good financial opportunity. 

While anyone can be targeted for a scam, there are a couple groups of people who seem to be targeted more often: 

Seniors And The Elderly

Unfortunately, seniors and the elderly are often victims of scams. They may not be as familiar with common scams or they may be suffering from mental issues related to aging. The sad truth is there are so many ways to take advantage of vulnerable, desperate, and lonely people:

  • Trusting deceitful caregivers - An unethical caregiver may try to take advantage of the elderly person they work for. They may convince them to write them into the will or add them to their checking account.

  • Giving up account information - An elderly person may be persuaded to give up their account information or financial control, either to an individual or to a fraudulent business. If your loved one is at risk, consider becoming a co-signer on their accounts to monitor any suspicious activity.


Travelers are (by definition) out of their element. They’re away from home, unfamiliar with the area, and generally not paying attention to their immediate surroundings. This makes them vulnerable to all kinds of scams. 

Before you travel, make sure you are familiar with common travel scams so you can identify a risky situation before it gets out of control. The best approach is to always be on guard and pay attention to your surroundings. Don’t forget to keep your wallet out of your back pocket!


Common Types of Scams


It’s all about money, isn’t it? Here are a few common scams with intent to steal your money:

  • Any time someone is sending you money for no apparent reason, it’s likely to be a scam. This includes fraudulent contents, giveaways, and other so-called prizes. If you didn’t try to win something, it’s not for you.

  • Any time someone is asking you for money for no apparent reason, it’s likely to be a scam. This includes the infamous “Nigerian Prince” email scam, as well as sending money to a “love interest” abroad so they can buy an airline ticket to see you (hint: they probably won’t).


You’ve worked hard for your assets. Don’t fall victim to these scams that aim to take them away:

  • Giving up account information or control of your financial assets to a scammer. You may be persuaded by a fraudulent third-party company that claims they will help you.

  • Mortgage scams are prominent, especially in difficult economic times. Look for red flags to identify fraudulent or predatory mortgage companies

Jobs and Making Money

Just when you’re trying to make money, you may end up losing money with these scams:

  • Work-from-home scams - While there are some legitimate telecommuting jobs, beware of work-from-home scams. These can include not being paid or paying a company to help you start your own home-based business. 

  • Multilevel marketing scams (MLM) - You’re probably familiar with the concept of a pyramid scheme, but make sure you can recognize it hidden within a flashy “opportunity.” Multilevel marketing companies promise wealth to the desperate.

Privacy, Identity, and Online Security

There are so many ways to lose control of your privacy and identity online. Here are just a few examples:

  • Email phishing scams - Phishing scams want to get your personal information and login credentials through any means possible. You can receive fraudulent emails from senders who look exactly like your bank, social networks, work accounts, or any other service that handles your personal information. Learn how to spot the signs.

  • Malicious software - Think before you click! Scammers will try all sorts of things to get you to click something that will automatically download malicious software to your computer. This software can scrape your data and make you vulnerable to all kinds of theft.


How Can I Protect Myself From Scams?

The truth is there’s no way to be a scam-proof person. However, there are actions you can take that will reduce the likelihood of falling for a scam:

  • Never agree to anything suspicious until talking to another smart person

  • Never agree to something if it seems too good to be true

  • Never accept a “prize” for something you didn’t try to win

Be Vigilant With Your Credit Cards And Bank Accounts

When it comes to credit cards and bank accounts, don’t be asleep at the wheel. Take control of your financial life by being proactive instead of reactive. 

Be sure to review your credit card and bank statements regularly. You’ll probably notice a big purchase you didn’t make, but what about smaller ones? How easy would it be for a criminal to make a $15 purchase on your credit card without you noticing? That’s how they get away with it. 

Know What To Do

If your accounts have been compromised, or you suspect that they have, contact your financial institution immediately. They have plans and policies in place to handle the situation. Plus, consumer protection laws prevent losses from being passed on to you. 

In the meantime, you can change your password, change your financial details, or even change your accounts. Follow the guidance of your financial institution and take precautions to prevent the issue from happening again. 

Can A Lawyer Help Me If I’m A Victim Of A Scam?

Generally speaking, lawyers cannot help you if you have been a victim of a scam. Instead, seek assistance from the following agencies:

  • FBI

  • State Attorney General’s Office

  • Local District Attorney’s Office

Keep in mind, in many cases your chances for compensation are slim to none. Especially if you are a victim of an offshore scammer, these offenders are extremely difficult to trace. 

It’s very unfortunate that scams and fraud are everywhere and many good people suffer the consequences. The best thing you can do is to be aware of common scams and practice good habits when it comes to your financial accounts and personal information.


Additional Resources

If you’d like to learn more about scams, fraud, and how to protect yourself, check out these free resources:

Scam Alerts - Consumer Information by the Federal Trade Commision
Scams and Frauds - by
Fraud and Scams - by Snopes


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Adam Greenman
Adam Greenman has been a trusted criminal defense and personal injury attorney in Portland for over 15 years. A graduate of Lewis and Clark School of Law and an experienced former prosecutor, Adam is a proud member of the Oregon State Bar Association, Oregon Trial Lawyers Association, and the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. He is known for providing personal, one-on-one attention to clients.