Scams and How to Prevent Them

Scams, frauds, and hackers are everywhere. With our continued and increasing use of the internet, technology, and Artificial Intelligence, the risk of receiving a scam that could result in being hacked is greater than before. One target in particular is bank accounts and credit card accounts. This is not only to access your money and take it for themselves, but to also steal precious information about yourself - your passwords, your personal information, and even your identity. 

All of us at Northwestern Bank care about you and want to be sure you stay safe. To help prevent fradulent activity from scams happening to you, we have provided tips, advice, and resources for how to avoid scams and what to do if you have been scammed. 

If you have been scammed and need assistance, please report it to the Federal Trade Commission by clicking here.

What are Scams? 

A scam is an act committed that intends to take something of importance from unsuspecting people. These items of importance are usually money, personal information such as your passwords, bank account information, or social security number, or even your identity. Scams come in a variety of forms, both physical and digital. Some examples are letters, emails, lottery tickets, tickets to an event, phone calls, and unplanned visits from people claiming to be with a company. Scams can be performed by anyone at any location, and by one person, a group of people, or even companies dedicated to scamming others for their own benefit. 


What are the different types of scams? 

There are a variety of different scams that exist. We've listed some of the most common ones below. 

Imposter Scams

Imposter scams are some of the most common scams, and are the main type of scam people remember when discussing them. Imposter scammers pretend to be someone they are not - including your family. Common impersonations these scammers pretend to be include the IRS, Social Security, charities, companies, and people you know, such as your grandparents, parents, friends, children, or grandchildren. With the development of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, these scams are becoming more realistic and more dangerous. Scammers are teaching AI to sound like certain family members in trouble needing money. Diligence is extremely important when determining what is and is not a scam, and it is better to be safe than sorry. 

While imposter scams take on a variety of different forms, they all have the same goal: to put you in a situation where you feel rushed and need to make an impulsive decision quickly. If they succeed, they are more likely to have access to what they want - your money or personal information. Imposter Scammers are most likely to ask for money to be wired to them or placed on a gift card. 

To protect yourself from Imposter Scams, follow the tips below: 

  • Do not send money to someone you do not know. Even if they contacted you first or say they know you somehow, do not give them your money. 
  • Keep a level head. Consider what they are saying compared to what you know. If you are unsure or in doubt, do not give into their requests. 
  • Know where your family is. If you keep in touch with family members and save their contact information, you are less likely to fall victim to an imposter scammer pretending to be a member of your family. Remember, if you family member was actually in trouble, they would use their own phone number to contact you. 
  • The IRS and Social Security do not call or email you to discuss problems with your account. If they needs to get in touch with you, they will most likely send an official letter through USPS. They will never be demanding nor aggressive and will never ask for an immediate or specific payment method to be used nor to be paid over the phone. If one reaches out to you, check their credentials. If you need to contact the IRS, they can be called at 1-800-829-1040

Investment Scams

Investment scams occur when a scammer advertises techniques to make money quickly, easily, and with low risk by investing in financial markets, real estate markets, or precious metals and coins by learning from them with coaching. Their course is often advertised as a "patended," "tested," or "proven" strategy that will even allow you to stop working. The trick is that, although their advertisements and introductory videos are free, the courses are often expensive, filled with lies about the success people achieve, and exaggerate the amount of money you can make. Sadly, these scams are growing in popularity, with the FTC reporting a total loss of 3.8 billion in 2022 due to Investment Scams. These scams can be especially popular on social media, with scammers setting up profiles of them as coaches and making videos about fake success. 

To protect yourself from Investment Scams, follow the tips below: 

  • If a course states you will receive "big money fast," "guranteed security for years to come," "raking in money," "coaching every step of the way," or "it's worked for others," it is best to avoid it. These are key words meant to trigger emotions over thinking, which encourages the scammer's victims to act on their offer quickly without thinking about it.
  • Statistics and testimonials can easily be faked, and you have no way to gurantee the stories are true. Be sure to independently verify claims. 
  • Exaggeration of significant current events and pressure to commit are common with Investment Scams, as the scammers do not want you to research before investing in their program. 
  • If they gurantee a specific amount of return on an investment, it is a scam. There is no way to gurantee a specific amount of return on an investment. 
  • Research the offer by looking up the person or company's name online followed by "reviews" or "scam" to see other people's experience with them. If others bring up problems, it is most likely a scam. 
  • Consider the risk. Investment is a risk in itself, and anyone who down plays risk or makes written risk disclosures sound like an inconvenience required by the government is a scammer. These can be used against you by the scammer if you try to recover the money you lost.

Sweepstake Scams

Sweepstake scams are a type of scam that try to steal your money, personal information, or to even download malware on your device by convincing you that you've won a prize of some kind. According to the FTC, these are some of the top scam reports made. These scams are delivered in a variety of ways, such as letters, emails, phone calls, and direct messages. A key identifier of these types of scams is them requiring you to give money or personal information to them in exchange for the prize. In the event that you win a prize, you do not need to exchange money nor information to receive it. 

To protect yourself from Sweepstake Scams, follow the tips below:

  • If you did not enter a contest to win a prize, there is no possible way you could have won. If someone reaches out to you claiming you have won a contest you did not enter, it is a scam. 
  • Do not exchange items to receive a prize. Prizes are free by nature. If they are requiring that you exchange money or personal information for your prize, it is a scam. 
  • Do not provide them with personal information
  • Do not pay any money in any way - wiring money, paying fees, taxes, or shipping charges - to receive your prize. This is exchanging items to win a prize, like stated above, and is a key indicator that it is a scam. 

Ticket Scams

Ticket scams are when someone uses tickets that are fake or nonexistent at bait to steal your money. These tickets can be for anything, from local events and concerts to train or plane tickets for a vacation. There is a higher risk to be scammed when buying tickets through unauthorized third party sellers or suspicious websites. 

To protect yourself from ticket scams, follow the tips below:

  • When purchasing tickets, go through a venue box office, authorized broker, or authorized third party seller
  • Make sure the ticket price is not higher or lower than usual compared to other tickets like it 
  • Be sure to verify details of the ticket before purchasing

Dating Scams

Dating scams are when a scammer pretends to be romantically interested in someone in order to receive money from them through cash, wiring money, or gift cards. Victims of this scam give into their requests because they care about them and do not know their real intentions. Victims may even ignore when others point out that their partner is a scammer and stealing their money. Scammers play with the emotions of their victims by showering them with praise and adoration, and prefer to target those who are lonely or vulnerable since they are easier to trick with emotional manipulation. While a variety of methods are used, from fake dating profiles on legitimate dating websites to fake dating websites and fake links to collect data, the goal is the same - to manipulate you in order to benefit themselves. 

To protect yourself from Dating Scams, follow the tips below: 

  • They ask for money so they can perform a various task, such as fly on a plane, buy a new phone or laptop, medical treatment, or more. Never give them the money they say they need. 
  • They try to move off the dating app or site quickly. This is so their activity is not monitored by the customer care teams who could notice their suspicious activity. 
  • Conversations turn seriously romantic quickly. Scammers often make claims about their victim being their soulmate, having a special bond, or wanting the relationship to become serious within weeks of meeting. 
  • They ask too many questions about you early on, especially personal questions. Scammers will use this information to manipulate you. 
  • If their story is inconsistent and sounds as if it were a soap opera - such as constant illness, family tragedies, or major accidents - it is a scam. 
  • If their profile photo looks like someone famous, such as a model or actor/actress, it is a scammer. They often use stock photos or photos of famous people to lure in their victims.
  • While some people prefer to stay off social media and minimize their information online, be wary if the person you are dating has no information online at all. This is a suspicious sign of a scammer. 
  • Scammers will always find a way to be unable to meet with you in person or on camera, especially if they live far away. They will come up with excuses, such as that their camera does not work, or that an accident happened, and are unable to meet. This is to keep their scam routine going and to prevent their real identity from being revealed. Please remember that, in healthy relationships, the partner will do anything to be with you in person and want to talk with you on video cameras. 

Unemployment Scams

Unemployment scams are a type of scam similar to identity theft in that the scammer uses the victim's personal information to gain the benefits for themselves. If you happen to receive a notice from your state's unemployment office, a notice from your former employer about unemployment benefits, a direct deposit from your state's unemployment office, or a call from someone claiming to be from your state unemployment office and you did not request any information or deposits, someone is most likely trying to commit an unemployment scam against you. 

To protect yourself against Unemployment Scams, follow the tips below: 

  • Never share personal information, such as your social security number, bank information, or date of birth with anyone you do not know. 
  • If you do apply for unemployment benefits, be sure you are using the actual website or phone number for your state's official unemployment benefits agency. 
  • Be sure to request and review your credit report regularly to make sure no one is using it besides you. 

How can I keep myself safe from Scams? 

While there are a variety of scams and a variety of ways to keep yourself, some of the basics are: 

  • Never share any personal information about yourself online. This includes bank account information, your birthday, your social security number, and any other information that can be used against you. 
  • Never send money, gift cards, or wire transfers to anyone you do not know. Likewise, never give anyone you do not know your personal information. 
  • If something seems too easy or simple to be true, such as earning lots of money quickly, it is most likely a scam and best to be avoided. 
  • Be sure to research and think before making decisions if confronted by a scammer, especially one using a threatening tone. They want you to react based on emotional instinct, not thinking things through and making a rational decision. 
  • Avoid clicking on suspicious links. 
  • Be sure that any website you go to is secure and the legitimate website of a business, especially since scammers will make fake websites and pose as said business or government entity. 
  • Be careful who you converse with online, and if they ask for money or personal information, do not give it to them. 
  • Always make the safest decision possible even if it seems inconvenient. It could save your money and your personal information. 


What do I do if I've been Scammed? 

If you have been scammed, it is important to report the scammer. There are multiple government-run websites, emails, and phone numbers that receive scam reports regularly. Some of them are: 

  • The Federal Trade Commission, or FTC. It is most recommended to report scams here. Scams can be reported at
  • If a scammer is pretending to be someone from the IRS, these impersonation scams can be reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration on the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page here.
  • Scams can also be reported to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission at

If you have given a scammer money or personal information, it is possible to get it back. You can reach out to the respective source and report the incident and hopefully cancel the transaction. While it may not be possible to get your funds back, it is important to report that it happened. For a full list of resources to contact depending on what scam occured to you, please refer to this guide by the FTC by clicking here. 

Remember that identity theft is possible if you have been scammed. Please refer to our Identity Theft page for more information and resources to help you if you are at risk of or have lost your identity to a scammer or hacker. 


What are the best resources to go to for more information about Scams? 

For more information on scams, please refer to the sources below that we refer to for scam information and prevention: