Skip to Main Content

Common Frauds & Scams

Credit Card

In our effort to increase public awareness about fraud, we highlight widespread examples as they come to our attention. This section offers descriptions of some common frauds and scams along with suggestions to prevent being victimized. Other helpful links to industry and government fraud Web sites are provided, as is information on where to file a complaint.

Scammers Pose As Fed Employees

In recent fraudulent solicitations, scammers referencing the Federal Reserve may threaten arrest to access personal and/or bank account information. The Federal Reserve provides banking services only to commercial banks, not to individuals. There are no individual accounts at the Fed. Federal Reserve Banks do not communicate directly with individual consumers and do not contact individuals holding accounts at commercial bank regarding suspected suspicious activity in those accounts. The Fed also has no involvement in commercial banking solicitations.

Counterfeit Cashier's Check

The counterfeit cashier's check scheme traditionally targets people who are selling items over the Internet or through classified ads. The cashier's check given to a seller and/or potential employee may be fraudulent and eventually returned to the bank.

COVID-19 Scams and Fraud

Fraudulent solicitations related to COVID-19 continue after the pandemic, including scams that may reference the Fed. A Federal Reserve Bank will not contact anyone about suspicious activity in a commercial bank account. Find information and resources here to help you protect yourself while seeking assistance.

Credit Card

Credit card fraud involves the unauthorized use of a credit or debit card, or number from those cards, to fraudulently obtain money or property. This scam can take many different forms and often relies on gaining vital information from unsecure Web sites

Debt Elimination

Debt elimination schemes involve a promise to eliminate burdensome credit card, mortgage or other debt for an up-front fee. Organizers of these schemes create fictitious documents for the victim to present to the holder of his debt. These types of scams may result in the loss of real estate and up-front money as well as a damaged credit history.

Employment/Business Opportunities

Employment/business opportunity schemes come in many forms. Through these schemes, scam artists solicit individuals, sometimes by creating a fictitious product or service to sell, to steal money and/or one's identity.

Federal Reserve Accounts

The Federal Reserve provides banking services only to banks. Individuals do not have accounts at the Federal Reserve. Scammers might purport that the intended victim has an account at the Federal Reserve that contains money.

Identity Theft

Identity theft occurs when someone uses personally identifying information, such as a person's name, Social Security number or credit card number, without permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. This type of fraud affects as many as 9 million Americans annually.


Lottery schemes usually involve fraudsters who randomly contact people advising them they've been selected as the winner of a lottery. The fraudsters then try to persuade people to forward sums of money to receive their larger prize money.

Mortgage Foreclosure Rescue

Mortgage foreclosure rescue scams are designed to prey on individuals desperate to avoid home foreclosure. Scam artists attempt to obtain fees for services that purport to help victims keep their homes. These services don't stop the foreclosure process. Some scam artists may offer to refinance a mortgage as a means of saving a home from foreclosure.

Nigerian Letter or "419"

Nigerian Letter or "419" schemes involve scam artists who sometimes pose as business owners, bankers or foreign government officials needing assistance to move money from their country. Scam artists may attempt to learn personal and banking information and collect an up-front fee to supposedly transfer funds.


"Smishing" is the sending of text messages to cell phones to solicit personal information. Fraudsters use this information to steal your identity or to withdraw funds from your banking account.

Additional Resources

Phone Icon Contact Us

fraud alert
Fraud Alert

The Richmond Fed is aware of current fraud attempts related to the use of Federal Reserve routing numbers, as well as callers purporting to represent the Federal Reserve and requesting personal information such as Social Security numbers. The Federal Reserve provides banking services only for banks, and does not hold accounts for individuals. Please exercise caution and take a look at the fraud resources on this page.