It is important to know and understand different types of consumer fraud, especially since anyone can become a victim at any time. With new technology, fraud and schemes designed to steal money and items from people can happen to practically anyone at any time. Even with the current rise in high-tech varieties of fraud, there are many older "classic" kinds of fraud that one must be aware of. It is important for people to become educated about consumer fraud since knowledge is the best defense against it.
One of the most common types of consumer fraud is credit card fraud, which can come in many forms. Some types of credit card fraud are attempts at stealing credit card numbers, after which the victims' accounts are quickly drained by the thief or sold to other scammers. Other kinds of credit scams target people with high amounts of credit card debt and promise them easy ways to pay down their balances. Rather than helping them, however, they simply charge the victims high fees that drive them further into debt. Similarly, in other types of credit card scams, cardholders are offered credit card insurance that is designed only to charge large sums of money to the credit card while offering no actual protection.
Many types of consumer fraud are directed at consumers who are having financial difficulties. Advanced fee loan scams will target a victim's need for an immediate loan by taking a payment up front with no intention of lending any money at all. Debt consolidation scams offer to roll all of a consumer’s debts into one low monthly payment, but will often accompany high fees and interest rates that quickly become impossible to pay off. Pyramid schemes offer high returns on investments, but quickly implode and leave people without their investments if they do not reel other victims into the scam.
Similar types of consumer fraud are work-at-home scams and business opportunity scams. These kinds of schemes are most always aimed at taking money up front while offering no real business opportunity. A victim of this type of scam will usually spend their money on information about how they can steal from others by offering the same kind of scam to other victims. Fake business opportunities are usually easy to discern because they offer an extremely high amount of money for very little work. Some, however, can appear very legitimate until the fake company starts requiring high up-front fees with no intention of offering any real work.
Some of the older kinds of scams aimed at consumers offer products or services that simply don’t work. Weight loss products are an example of this, where the product that the victim pays for does absolutely nothing to help him or her lose weight. Many product scams will end with the victim receiving a broken product, one that does not work, or even nothing at all. Sometimes, in another classic scam, a company tells the consumer that he or she has won a prize. When the recipient tries to claim the prize, they must pay money to a fake company in order to claim it.
There are also many types of consumer fraud that have sprung up as a result of the Internet and email. A person who pays to view a website, for example, can get charged many hidden fees. Other thieves target a person's email and claim to offer lots of money for an up-front fee. This type of consumer fraud is often referred to as a Nigerian 419 scam, or simply a 419 scam.