The Dirty Dozen: "Classic" Scams and Pitches

Nearly every new scam is just a variation on one or more of these tried and true classics. If you come across any of these typical pitch lines, be careful -- there's likely to be some element of a scam involved!


It’s Your Lucky Day! You Won the Foreign Lottery!

Lotteries in most countries are illegal unless conducted by a governmental entity or specific, exempt licensed charitable organization. It's against the law for a U.S. citizen to play a foreign lottery from within the United States, just as it is illegal for anyone living in another country to play a U.S. lottery unless they are visiting in the United States.

Foreign lottery scams typically notify their victims that they have won a prize, which can be claimed only after the victim pays some transfer fees or taxes, or provides some proof of identity or details of bank accounts or credit cards.

Some scammers even send a real-looking check as part of the "winnings," which the victim is told to deposit and return some amount to cover fees and taxes associated with winning the lottery prize.

No legitimate lottery will EVER send winnings and ask someone to send part of it back in fees. Victims who follow these bogus instructions lose twice: the winning “check” eventually proves to be a fake even if it doesn't bounce right away, and the portion of their "winnings' that they forwarded overseas ends up being taken from their own bank account.

Before responding to an "It's Your Lucky Day" appeal, remember: 

  • Be suspicious of anyone who says you've won a contest you can't remember entering.
  • Sponsors of legitimate contests identify themselves prominently; fraudulent promoters are more likely to downplay their identities. Legitimate promoters also provide you with an address or toll-free phone numbers so you can ask that your name be removed from their mailing or calling list.
  • If you truly won a lottery prize, you would not be asked for money up-front to release your winnings.”
  • If real lottery winnings are coming your way, there's no need for you to provide any bank account, credit card, or other confidential information.
  • A legitmate lottery will not force you to comply with the terms immediately -- or the money will be given to someone else.
  • It's highly unlikely that you've won a "big" prize if your notification was mailed by bulk rate. Check the postmark on the envelope or postcard.

If you receive a notice from what seems to be an illegal lottery, you may forward a copy to your local Post Office to possibly help prevent others from receiving the same scam.

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Easy, Fast Weight Loss! Burn Fat -- While You Sleep!

*** Burn 3 to 15 Pounds of FAT While You Sleep! *** 100% Guaranteed!

Simply send your FULL name and a written request for information. What are you waiting for? You have nothing to lose except fat!!

Scams promising easy and fast weight loss have been around since at least the early 1900s. Not only does nobody lose as much weight or as easily as was promised, but many people never receive the ordered items, or keep receiving them –with invoices – long after they have stopped wanting the product.  Think twice before wasting your money or taking a financial leap of faith on any of these false claims:

  • "Lose weight without diet or exercise!" Achieving a healthy weight takes work. Pass on any product that promises miraculous results without effort.
  • “Lose weight no matter how much you eat of your favorite foods!” Beware of any product that claims that you can eat all you want of high-calorie foods and still lose weight.
  • Never diet again!”Even if you’re successful in taking the weight off, permanent weight loss requires permanent lifestyle changes. Don’t trust any product that promises once-and-for-all results without ongoing maintenance.
  • “Block the absorption of fat, carbs, or calories!”  Experts agree that to date, there’s no magic non-prescription pill that will allow you to block the absorption of fat, carbs, or calories. The key to curbing your craving for those “downfall foods” is portion control. Limit yourself to a smaller serving.
  • “Lose 30 pounds in 30 days!” Losing weight at the rate of a pound or two a week is the most effective way to take it off and keep it off. At best, products promising lightning-fast weight loss are false. At worst, they can ruin your health.
  • “Everybody will lose weight!” Your habits and health concerns are unique to you. There is simply no one-size-fits-all product guaranteed to work for everyone.
  • “Lose weight with our miracle diet patch or cream!”  There’s nothing you can wear or apply to your skin that will cause you to lose weight.

Free Cash Grants! Never Repay!

You Can Get The Money You Need...

These bogus offers have been around forever in one form or another. What you get for your $49.99 or $32.95 is a list of foundations, which you could get free from any public library.
However, these foundations do not "give money away." They make grants, usually to non-profit organizations, who write detailed plans that demonstrate how the funds will be used to advance whatever causes a particular foundation is interested in.

Are there some foundations that give money to individuals to help them start businesses, go to college or become a beautician? Maybe there are a few, but you’ll need to weed them out from hundreds of other foundations.  And, you can be pretty certain that the demand far outpaces the supply. 

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Flip real estate for easy profits. Get a high-paying job.  Start a successful online business. Find the best investments. Hundreds of seminars are offered every day across the country, promising fulfillment, success and wealth. 

In many cases, the seminar will be mostly hype and selling the dream of success, rather than providing actual content to help you achieve success. Often, free or low-cost seminars are just teasers for much more expensive and extensive courses or seminars.

Many of these "seminars" are very controlled sales pitches. They look great, exciting and helpful on the surface, but are designed to extract money from participants before they walk out the door.

Some seminars give out "applications" to make participants think the seminar and training are very exclusive. However, in many cases, the application is really a cleverly disguised CONTRACT. Be sure to read everything before you sign, and don't provide a social security number, bank account number or credit card number on any form given to you at a "seminar."  If you're pressured to provide information, this is a sign to cut the interaction short. It would be wise to leave.

Beware if a seminar has an finance company on hand to give audience members instant financing. This can be used to entice participants to purchase high-priced materials or courses. The credit provided is often carries a high interest rate.

But for many participants, the scam occurs after they purchase the extensive training, coaching, and matierals from one of these seminars. They never live up to the grand promises, and refunds are either impossible or nearly impossible to obtain.

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Make Big $$ Working from Home!

There are far more people trying to make money from you than those who want to help you make a living. Fraudulent promoters use the classifieds, email, radio, and the Internet to tout all kinds of work-at-home offers, from medical billing and envelope stuffing to assembly and craft work.

Too often, these ads make promises about earnings, merchandise, or marketability that sound great, but aren’t truthful.

Dozens of scams are built around this theme, but most of them come down to one thing:  you spend your own money to pay someone else; not the other way around. By responding to “work at home” offers, it is virtually certain that you will lose money by paying for a "kit" or software that supposedly trains you make big money at home.

A popular scheme involves sending out bills for doctors. Some companies have sold software packages for $3,000 while others are content to get $300 or even $30. They all do the same thing: nothing.

If you do follow up on a work-at-home offer, here are some questions to ask:

  • What tasks will I be doing? Ask the program sponsor to list every step of the job.
  • Will I be paid a salary or will my pay be based on commission?
  • Who will pay me?
  • When will I get my first paycheck?
  • What is this going to cost me, including supplies, equipment and membership fees? What do I get for my money?

The answers to these questions may help you determine whether a work-at-home program is appropriate for you, and whether it’s legit.

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THIS JUST IN: Fake News Site Promotes the Latest Scam!

Most people count on the news for accurate and truthful reporting. Scam artists are now exploiting the public’s trust in news organizations by setting up fake news websites to peddle their wares. The fake sites, which usually display logos of legitimate news organizations, promote everything from bogus weight loss products to work-at-home opportunities, anti-aging products and debt reduction plans. 

When the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) examined “news” sites promoting acai berry products for weight loss, they found that nearly everything about these sites was fake. The websites – owned by marketers – were simply a tool to entice consumers to click on links to the sellers' sites to buy acai berry supplements. Sellers paid the marketers a commission based on the number of consumers they lured to their sites. There was no reporter, no “medical breakthrough,” dramatic weight loss, or satisfied consumers who left comments, There was no affiliation with a reputable news source. As a rule, legitimate news organizations do not endorse products.

In 2011, the FTC filed a complaint jointly with the State of Connecticut, seeking to permanently stop a Connecticut-based operation that allegedly used fake news websites to promote their products, made deceptive weight-loss claims, and told consumers they could receive free trials of acai berry and "colon cleanse" products, and only have to pay the nominal cost of shipping and handling. Many consumers paid $79.99 for the trial, and for recurring monthly shipments of products that were hard to cancel. The parties have agreed to a court order temporarily halting the illegal conduct of LeanSpa LLC and two other companies.

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Enhance your love life / stamina / brain power!

Promises for a quick cure or solution for a medical problem may be hard to resist — but supplements claiming to cure impotency, treat Alzheimer's disease, or prevent severe memory loss aren't proven. Besides cheating you out of your money, they also may hurt your health.

Hundreds of unknown, untested nutritional aids are marketed every day. But while they might seem similar to drugs, and some even have drug-like effects, supplements don't undergo FDA review for safety and effectiveness; many aren’t tested for quality and consistency. Some have been found to be tainted. By law, diet supplements cannot be promoted for the treatment of a disease because they aren't proven to be safe and effective.

Even “all natural” remedies with a long history of use aren't guaranteed to be safe. Some substances that have raised safety concerns include:

  • comfrey
  • chaparral
  • lobelia
  • germander
  • aristolochia
  • ephedra (ma huang)
  • L-tryptophan
  • germanium
  • magnolia-stephania, and
  • stimulant laxative ingredients, like those found in dieter's teas.

Comfrey contains certain alkaloids that can cause serious liver damage, and aristolochia can cause kidney failure. Some consumers have had difficulty getting shipments of nutritionals to stop once they start.

Watch for:

  • Claims that one product does it all and cures a wide variety of health problems: "Proven to treat rheumatism, arthritis, infections, ulcers, heart trouble, and more."
  • Words like scientific breakthrough, miraculous cure, exclusive product, secret ingredient, ancient remedy: "A revolutionary innovation formulated by using proven principles of natural health-based medical science."
  • Misleading use of scientific-sounding terms: "Molecule multiplicity," "glucose metabolism," "thermogenesis," or "insulin receptor sites."
  • Phony references to Nobel Prize winning technology or science: "Nobel Prize Winning Technology," or "Developed by two-time Nobel prize winner."
  • Undocumented testimonials by patients or doctors claiming miraculous results: "My husband has Alzheimer's disease. He began eating a teaspoonful of this product each day. And after just 22 days, he's back to his old self."
  • Limited availability and a need to pay in advance. "Hurry! This offer will not last. Send a check now to reserve your supply."
  • Promises of no-risk money-back guarantees. "If after 30 days you have not lost at least 4 pounds each week, your uncashed check will be returned to you." Many people never receive their money back, or continue to have their credit cards charged for ongoing orders.

For a list of the dietary supplement ingredients for which the FDA has issued alerts, visit 

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90-Day Free Golf Club Test!

The names keep changing but the pitch is always the same -- try out a brand-new set of high-tech golf clubs free for 90 days. All you have to do is put the full price of the clubs on your credit card as a "deposit." Then, if at the end of the 90 days if you're not completely satisfied, you return the clubs, get your money back and owe nothing.

At the end of 90 days, you send back the clubs, but your money has mysteriously disappeared. You’re too late to dispute the charge with your credit-card company, because disputes must be filed within 60 days of the purchase. Since the clubs were charged to your card 90 days ago, you own them!

The scammers move around and change their company name, making them difficult to catch.  Watch for this scam and others it may have spawned!

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Big senior discounts on prescription drugs!

Have you gotten spam email claiming that free or low-cost prescription drugs “are just a phone call away”? Have you visited a website offering to help you get "free" prescription drugs? If so, you may be looking at a scam.

Approximately one in three searches for online drug information redirects to websites that illegally sell prescription drugs.

Hackers insert code into legitimate websites, such as those from university or government sources. Once a person conducting the online search clicks on the link, they unknowingly visit a series of websites leading to a fake pharmacy.

What’s more, drugs purchased on these sites are dangerous. Independent testing has revealed that such products often include the active ingredient, but in incorrect and potentially dangerous dosages.

Avoid being led astray when purchasing medications online by purchasing only from pharmacy websites you know, and that are accredited by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

Steer clear of any company that charges for information on free or low-cost prescription drug programs. The information is free — and publicly available — from your physician, pharmacists, and the government.

A “one stop” website,, provides information on patient assistance programs for consumers who don’t have prescription drug coverage.

Additionally, offers information on many programs to help seniors and people with disabilities reduce prescription drug costs. Finally, you can access the federal government’s Medicare information at or by calling 1-800-MEDICARE.

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If a deal seems too good to be true, that's because it’s usually not true.
Postcards, faxes, and emails that offer free air travel and hotel getaways have lured and stranded hundreds of people across the country in the past year alone.
Some of these "free travel" promotions include images of airplanes and feature in large type the names and identifiable logos of major airlines, yet they are from companies that have no relationship to the airlines.
Consumers are told they've been “selected” to receive some combination of air travel and hotel package for attending a unique, money-saving travel club seminar.
Persons who attend the seminars find they're subjected to a hard-sell pitch for pricey travel clubs costing thousands of dollars, and that if and when they finally receive their air travel voucher, they find out that they are subject to taxes and fees of $100 per person or more.
In addition, many travel dates were blocked, and travel “restrictions” included a requirement to fly out on a Monday or Tuesday and return that Thursday.  Many persons reported that they never received their travel voucheers, and persons who tried to cancel their agreement found it difficult to accomplish.
Few, if any individuals who got involved in one of these offers report being satisfied with the experience.

You've won $2.5 million in the International Sweepstakes!

Nearly half of all American adults enter sweepstakes each year, mostly contests run by reputable marketers and non-profit organizations to promote their products and services. But some con artists also devise schemes that look like legitimate sweepstakes, and consumers regularly lose thousands of dollars to these unscrupulous promoters.

A sweepstakes is a promotion in which prizes are awarded to participating consumers by chance, with no purchase or entry fee required to win, and no fees or taxes to be paid before receiving the prize. Two common types of sweepstakes scams are:

1. A "winning" notification is sent from a real business, but the prize is either fake, or actually an offer for a multi-level marketing scheme, timeshare, travel club, or something similar.

2. A notice is sent by a scammer who is unaffiliated with any real organization. Claiming to represent a legitimate organization such as a national bank or the non-existent “National Sweepstakes Bureau,” they offer assurances that the sweepstakes is safe and legitimate. In truth, there are no prizes, it’s just a ploy to get your money.

Both scams require consumers to send or provide funds to claim a prize they’ve won. But, as many learn the hard way, those “free” prizes never materialize. If you’re tempted by a letter, email or telephone call telling you that you’ve been chosen to receive a great prize:

  • Don’t pay to collect: Legitimate sweepstakes don’t require you to pay or buy something to enter or improve your chances of winning, or to pay "taxes," "insurance" or "shipping and handling charges" to get your prize.
  • Confirm authenticity: Sponsors of legitimate contests identify themselves prominently; fraudulent promoters are more likely to downplay their identities.
  • Read the fine print: Bona fide offers clearly disclose the terms and conditions of the promotion in plain English, including rules, entry procedures, and usually, the odds of winning.
  • Skip the sales pitch: Agreeing to attend a sales meeting just to win an "expensive" prize is likely to subject you to a high pressure sales pitch.
  • Expect more spam: Signing up for a sweepstakes might subject you to more promotion tactics.
  • Don’t provide personal information. Disclosing your checking account or credit card account number in response to some promotion or contest is a sure-fire way to get scammed.

Bad credit or no credit? No problem!!

Bad credit? No credit history?  Sign up with Our Bank NOW and have access to fast cash.

Some warnings of a credit card / loan scam:

  • A lender who isn’t interested in your credit history. A lender who doesn’t care about your credit record should be a red flag. Ads that say “Get money fast,” or “No hassle — guaranteed,” often indicate a scam or at least, questionable practices. Banks and other legitimate lenders generally evaluate a borrower’s creditworthiness and verify your application information before they guarantee credit — even to creditworthy consumers.
  • Upfront fees, or fees that are not disclosed clearly or prominently. Scammers may say you’ve been approved for a loan, then demand a fee before you can get the money. This is a cue to walk away, especially if you’re told it’s for “insurance,” “processing,” or “paperwork.”  While legitimate lenders often charge application, appraisal, or credit report fees, they disclose their fees clearly, prominently and tell you up front.They take their fees from the amount you borrow, not from your wallet ahead of time. Legitimate fees usually are paid only after the loan is approved.
  • A loan that is offered by phone. It is illegal for companies doing business in the U.S. by phone to promise you a loan and ask you to pay for it before they deliver.
  • A lender who uses a copy-cat name. Crooks give their companies names that sound like well-known or respected organizations and create slick websites. Always get a company’s phone number from the phone book or directory assistance, and call to check they are who they say they are. Get a physical address, too: a company that advertises a PO Box as its only address is one to be wary of.
  • A lender not registered in Connecticut. Lenders and loan brokers doing business in Connecticut are required to register here with the  Department of Banking. Checking registration does not guarantee that you will be happy with a lender, but it helps weed out the fakes.
  • A lender that asks you to wire money or pay an individual. Don’t use a wire transfer service or send money orders for a loan. You have little recourse if there’s a problem with a wire transaction, and legitimate lenders don’t pressure their customers to wire funds.

Just because you’ve received a slick promotion or an ad, don’t assume it’s a good deal — or even legitimate. It’s important to check out any potential lenders with the Department of Banking.