Published: Dec. 2, 2020

Criminals are working overtime to steal your money or personal information. They prey on your needs and try to exploit them. Most of the time, the criminals are located outside of the United States, which makes tracking them down, returning your money and bringing them to justice virtually impossible.

It is very important to be cautious when you are online—if there is an offer that seems too good to be true, oftentimes, it is. Many scams involve relevant topics, such as raising money for the wildfire efforts or, most recently, the COVID-19 vaccines.

While not a comprehensive list, here are the most common scams that CU Boulder Police officers see.

How to avoid a scam

According to the Federal Trade Commission, here are the best ways to avoid a scam:

  • Don’t share your personal or financial information with someone that you didn’t expect to hear from. Legitimate organizations won’t call, email, or text to ask for your personal information, like your Social Security number, bank account information, or credit card numbers.
  • Don’t feel pressure to act quickly. Real businesses will give you time to make a decision and should not pressure you to do something immediately.
  • Recognize how scammers want you to pay. If someone represents a legitimate business or organization, they will not ask you to pay with a gift card or by using a money transfer service. And never deposit a check and send money back to someone. Their check will surely bounce after they cash your check and you will lose your money.
  • Stop and talk to someone you trust. Before you do anything else, tell a friend, a family member, a neighbor or a police officer about what you are being asked to do. Talking about it could help you realize it’s a scam.

If you were or think you were scammed, report it to the Federal Trade Commission.

Employment scams

Knowing that a lot of college students need money, this is a popular way that scammers steal from you. There are three common methods:

  • Credit report scam: You receive an email notifying you that, after reading your resume on a career-finder website, the company would like to discuss the position with you further. All that you need to do is fill out some information so that the company can run a credit check on you. You then provide them with your name, address, Social Security number, etc. The problem is that there isn’t a job and they aren’t running a credit check on you.
  • Pay for a background check or training supplies: During a fake phone interview, the job seeker is told he or she is hired. To move forward in the process, the job seeker needs to send a prepaid credit card to pay for the background check or training supplies. If it is a legitimate job with a real employer, you shouldn’t have to pay for these items.
  • Work-from-home scam: A company hires you to assemble products at home to sell. All that you need to do is send them $300 to pay for the first kit. You send them the money and your kit never arrives.

Government scams

Another very common scam involves callers pretending to be government officials from the Internal Revenue Service or the Social Security Administration. The criminals often use fear and tend to target our international students who are not as familiar with how these government offices work. Usually, the callers threaten to arrest the victim if they don’t send money right away. Once again, the criminals will often recommend payment through gift cards or prepaid credit cards.

Romantic connection scam

In this scam, the victim meets someone online and there is quickly a romantic connection. After a few visits together, the scammer convinces the victim to disrobe while they watch, recording the entire event. Then, a different person reaches out to the victim to let them know about the video and threatens to share it publicly if they don’t pay up.