Know the Scam! A Handy Guide

author imagePosted by Mascoma Bank on March 29, 2021

These days, there are many different flavors of scam out there.

The precautions we take to avoid falling victim to any particular scam are very similar—never give out personal information such as Social Security numbers or bank account details over the phone or via email; never click on suspicious links; never send cash or wire transfers or gift cards to people or organizations you don’t know—but the kind of scam that’s knocking on your door or calling you on the phone could be one of hundreds.

Is it useful to know what kind of scam is lurking in your inbox? Absolutely. Informed consumers are the ones least likely to be taken in. Plus, if we are all more aware of the creativity and innovation driving the groups and individuals who are perpetuating these scams, we as a community have a better chance at defeating them before they do even more harm.

Take a look at some of the more popular scams going around today.


  • ATM Card 419 Scam: The ATM Card Payment Scam is used in conjunction with other scams, such as a fake Lottery Scam, Unpaid Contractor Scam, or similar exploits. The victim is promised an ATM card with which the victim can withdraw millions of dollars (up to a large limit per day) at any location that accepts ATM cards. However, like all Advance Fee Frauds, the victim must pay a fee to receive the card. If it ever is received, it will not work. A replacement card will be offered, again for a fee.
  • Auction 419 Scam: The scammer “wins” an auction on eBay or another auction site, then “overpays” for the item with a check or money order. The scammer then asks the target to send him the overage and the scam segues into Cashier’s Check 419.
  • Black Currency 419 Scam: The scammer has a large amount of currency available to share with the target, but the currency has been defaced. However, the currency can be cleaned if the target will purchase enough of the correct cleaning solution (this type of 419 is also called “wash wash”). Black Currency 419 techniques are commonly used in many other types of 419 operations.
  • Cashier’s Check 419 Scam: The scammer has cashier’s checks or money orders they need cashed, and the target can keep a percentage of the check for cashing it and forwarding the proceeds net his commission to the scammer. Then, the original check or money order sent to the target eventually bounces, and the target is out the money advanced to the scammer. The target also is cash out to his bank for any problems with his account caused by the bouncing of the original check, as he must make up any overdrafts and pay any relevant fees, etc. Many other types of 419 are variants of Cashier’s Check 419.
  • Charitable Organization 419 Scam: The scammer approaches a charitable organization with a request for help, usually about getting a large sum of money transferred out of a country in which the charitable organization’s brethren can claim to be persecuted. A percentage of the proceeds is often offered to the charitable organization for their assistance. The scammer needs monies for fees in order to get the monies freed up.
  • Chat Room 419 Scam: The 419 meets the target online in a chat room, etc. or through a dating or instant messenger online service, befriends the target, and gets the target to advance them monies for various reasons. Often segues into Romance 419 or Cashier’s Check 419.
  • Classic 419 Scam: The scammer has or can gain access to a large sum of money by some means and they need the financial and personal help of the target, in return for a percentage of the funds, to get the necessary transactions processed and get monies out of the country. Many other types of 419 are variants of Classic 419. Also, Classic 419 often segues into Black Currency 419.
  • Classified Ad 419 Scam: The scammer buys something from a classified ad and then pays with a bad check or segues into Cashier’s Check 419.
  • Disaster 419 Scam: The scammer says someone has been killed in a plane crash, earthquake, tsunami, or other disaster, leaving a large sum of money behind which can be claimed by the target or split between the target and the scammer if the scammer can be advanced the monies necessary to process the transaction. Often segues into Black Currency 419.
  • Employment 419 Scam: The scammer “employs” the target to process financial transactions for a commission and has the target advance the net proceeds of these transactions to the scammer before the checks sent to the target bounce (segues into Cashier’s Check 419). There is also another form where the scammer offers a lucrative job to the target but certain fees must be paid up front by the target to get the job.
  • Extortion 419 Scam: The scammer says that if the target does not send him money, the scammer will hurt or kill the target and/or his family.
  • Goods and Services 419 Scam: The scammer orders goods or services advanced to him on credit and then does not pay or pays with a bad check, often segues into Cashier’s Check 419.
  • Next of Kin / Inheritance 419 Scam: The scammer informs the target that someone has died with no relatives to claim the large cash bequest left by the deceased. Often, the scammer says that if someone does not claim the money it will revert to the Government and no one will get it. The target is asked to “stand in” as a relative to claim the money, with the scammer taking care of all the details, and then split the proceeds with the scammer. The scammer needs monies for fees to get the target declared the rightful inheritor.
  • Lottery 419 Scam: The scammer says the target has won a lottery, but fees and taxes etc. must be paid before the proceeds can be released.
  • Oil Scam 419 Scam: The scammer has secured a large amount of oil at below market prices, and the target can get in on the deal for a fee.
  • Real Estate 419 Scam: The scammer wants to buy real estate, but cannot free up his monies just now to do it, so he asks the target to advance him all or some of the funds for the purchase in return for partial ownership of the real estate or a large future fee to be paid to the target.
  • Recovery 419 Scam: The scammer claims they can recover monies lost by the target in a previous 419 operation, but fees must be paid in advance to accomplish this.
  • Reload 419 Scam: The scammer approaches a target who has already been scammed by a 419 fraud and offers the target another type of 419 deal to enable the target to “replace” their lost monies, or the scammer claims he can bring the previous deal to fruition, if necessary fees are paid by the target.
  • Reshipper 419 Scam: The scammer will attempt to obtain stolen merchandise for personal use or to sell. Because many companies will not send merchandise to Nigeria or Eastern Europe due to warnings about stolen credit card purchases, the scammer must find an in-country person to receive then reship the goods.
  • Romance (Love or Dating) 419 Scam: The scammer is in love with the target, but needs money to clear up various problems the scammer is having before they can be with the target, often segues into Cashier’s Check 419.
  • Unpaid Contractor 419 Scam: In this variant of the Classic 419 Scam Advance Fee Fraud, the scammer will claim to be with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), or some government ministry. The victim is told to pose as a contractor who has not yet been paid by the Nigerian government for a “completed project.” The money is to be split between victim and the scammer. Payments from the victim will be required to participate in this crime.
  • War Booty 419 Scam: The scammer says he is a trooper who has stumbled across a large sum of war booty and will pay the target a percentage if the target helps him personally and financially to get it out of the country. Often segues into Black Currency 419.
  • Will Scam 419 Scam: The scammer informs the target that a distant relative has died leaving a large sum of money which the target can inherit if the proper fees are paid.