The 10 Most Common Types of Fraud

Quick Answer

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) collects and organizes reports on fraudulent activity. The top 10 most common types of fraud include imposter scams, online shopping scams, sweepstakes scams and investing scams.

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Consumers lost over $10 billion to fraud in 2023, according to the Federal Trade Commission's annual Consumer Sentinel Network report. Similar to 2022, there were around 2.56 million fraud reports, and someone lost money in a little over a quarter of the cases.

Overall, the median losses were about $500, although median losses were much higher for some fraud categories. Younger people (22 to 29 years old) reported losing money more often, but older people (70 and older) reported larger loss amounts.

Below, we look at the top 10 most common types of fraud based on FTC reports, explain how the fraud happens and what you can do to protect yourself.

The Most Common Types of Fraud
Type of Fraud Number of Reports Median Amount Lost Total Amount Lost
1. Imposter scams 853,935 $800 $2.67 billion
2. Online shopping and negative reviews 368,379 $125 $392 million
3. Prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries 157,520 $878 $338 million
4. Investment-related scams 107,699 $7,768 $4.64 billion
5. Business and job opportunities 107,134 $2,137 $491 million
6. Internet services 98,717 $250 $36 million
7. Telephone and mobile services 94,261 $206 $19 million
8. Health care 71,518 $300 $17 million
9. Travel, vacations and timeshare plans 55,062 $1,187 $122 million
10. Foreign money offers and fake check scams 32,164 $1,900 $138 million

Source: Federal Trade Commission

1. Imposter Scams

Fraudsters often pretend to be someone else to scare you or earn your trust. They can then try to persuade you to share personal information or send them money. Imposter scams can start with a phone call, text message, email, direct message online or even in person. Some examples include:

  • Grandparent scams: The scammer pretends to be a relative or friend and calls you asking for financial assistance.
  • Romance scams: The scammer pretends to have a platonic or romantic interest in you before scamming you.
  • Robocall scams: The caller pretends to be from a government agency or a company representative.

Scammers also might pretend to work for the police, IRS, FBI, tech support, a well-known corporation or a charity. They may also use AI to impersonate other people. They can then use different scenarios and schemes to try to scam you.

How to Protect Yourself From Imposter Scams

Be cautious whenever someone unexpectedly tries to connect with you and asks you for personal information or wants you to click on a link. Even a text message about an attempted delivery could be a scammer pretending to work for a shipping company. It's always best to look up the organization the person claims to be from and contact it yourself. A legitimate customer service employee or government agent should appreciate that you're trying to be careful.

2. Online Shopping and Negative Reviews

Online shopping scams could involve websites that overcharge you for products or services, don't deliver the products or services you order on time (or at all) or don't honor their guarantees. The negative review fraud reports make up a small portion of the overall category, and they are for businesses that try to stop people from leaving honest reviews.

How to Protect Yourself From Online Shopping and Negative Review Fraud

Look for red flags on the website, such as unusually low prices or spelling errors in the URL. If you wound up on the website via an ad on social media and there are large countdown timers or limited-time sales, those could also be warning signs that the site is part of a scam. If you decide to make a purchase, use a credit card, PayPal or another payment option that offers purchase protections. You can then dispute the charge and hopefully get your money back if the seller is a scammer.

3. Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries

Scammers might buy online advertisements or contact you directly and say that you've won a prize, sweepstakes or lottery. They could ask for your name, address, Social Security number or other personal information—claiming that they need it to send you the winnings. Alternatively, they might ask you to send them a payment to cover additional costs, say that you can pay to increase your chances of winning or ask for your bank or credit card account information.

How to Protect Yourself From Prize, Sweepstakes and Lottery Fraud

If you don't remember entering a drawing or lottery, you likely didn't win anything. And although you may have to pay to enter certain types of contests or lotteries, legitimate sweepstakes don't require payment, and paying shouldn't increase your chances of winning. It may be best to ignore messages about any sort of prizes or winnings, especially if they ask you for personal information or payment.

4. Investment-Related Scams

Investment-related frauds and scams aren't the most common, but they can be the most costly. Median losses were over $7,768 per fraud report, according to the FTC, with total losses of more than $4.6 billion in 2023.

Investment-related scams and fraud can happen when you pay for tips, seminars or courses that promise to teach you how to make money—or promise to invest on your behalf. The investments might be in cryptocurrency, stocks, bonds, real estate, gold, art or another asset. They get you to pay for the training or program but don't actually deliver anything of value in return.

Fraudsters can also be much more personal, as many romance scams involve investment-related fraud. The person might spend weeks or months getting to know you before they share an investment tip. However, when you invest in the same cryptocurrency, stock or platform, you're actually sending money to a fraudster.

How to Protect Yourself From Investment-Related Fraud

Never pay for a program or course that promises a guaranteed return—investing always comes with risk. And beware of anyone who tries to entice you with large investment returns, a secret method, insider tips or promises of passive income. If you're intrigued by an investment, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has a list of tools and sites you can use to investigate the investment and the person promoting it.

5. Business and Job Opportunities

Business and job opportunity frauds might involve fake work-from-home, franchise or entrepreneurial opportunities; multilevel marketing or pyramid schemes; or fake or illegal work. The fraudster might ask you to complete an application, which is actually a ruse to collect your personal information.

Alternatively, you might be asked to pay a fee for applying, supplies or using their placement services. Or, the fraudster might send you money, say they accidentally sent too much and ask you to refund part of it. The overpayment scam works because their original payment gets reversed several days later, but you've already sent them money using an irreversible method, such as a gift card.

How to Protect Yourself From Fraudulent Business and Job Opportunities

Look online for complaints about the person or company that posted the job or business opportunity. Never pay for submitting an application or if someone promises you a job, and don't send money to someone who claims they've sent you too much. Also, look out for jobs that require you to deposit and transfer money using your bank account or receive and reship products. You might be participating in a larger fraud scheme and committing a crime.

6. Internet Services

Reports related to internet services may cover fraudulent interactions with websites that sell content, online advertisements, online payment services, video games, virtual reality and social networks. The fraud reports can also stem from internet service providers that mislead consumers about the cost, speed or access of their service.

How to Protect Yourself From Internet Service Fraud

Whether you're playing a game or scrolling through social media, be cautious when interacting with other people online. You also want to watch out for online marketplace scams and ads that send you to scam online stores—see the tips in number 2 above. And monitor your monthly subscriptions and internet service costs to make sure you're not getting overcharged or paying for a service you canceled.

7. Telephone and Mobile Services

Fraudulent telephone and mobile services can include issues with your phone plan or provider, mobile applications, unauthorized charges and unsolicited messages. For example, a fraudster might trick you into downloading malware that will subscribe you to new services or send texts and make calls to premium numbers. They also might try to swap or port your number to a new phone or carrier to intercept text messages, including messages with one-time passcodes for logging in to your accounts.

How to Protect Yourself From Fraudulent Telephone and Mobile Services

Only download apps from the official app stores and uninstall apps that you no longer use. You can also periodically scan your device for malware using antivirus software. Additionally, contact your mobile carrier to see if you can enable SIM swapping protections that can keep fraudsters from taking over your number. And regularly review your phone bill to make sure the carrier isn't overcharging you.

8. Health Care

The health care fraud category includes misleading and deceptive claims about medical and health-related products and services. These could include scams related to diet products, cures for diseases, prescription drugs, everyday supplements, tests and medical equipment.

How to Protect Yourself From Health Care Scams and Fraud

Many of the fraud reports are related to diet products and programs, or medical treatments and cures. If you want to lose weight or are struggling with a health issue, speak with a primary care physician to get recommendations on safe and effective programs and medications. You can also review the FTC's page about dietary supplements for examples of language that fraudsters might use when promoting a supplement.

9. Travel, Vacations and Timeshare Plans

Fraudsters might promise you a free or low-cost vacation package or mislead you into purchasing a timeshare. But you might arrive at the destination to find the accommodations aren't what was promised or you may have to pay extra fees or taxes to claim your supposedly free deal. It can also be difficult to get out of a timeshare, even if it's legitimate. If you invest in a new fraudulent development, the project might never get past the fundraising stage.

How to Protect Yourself From Travel, Vacation and Timeshare Plan Fraud

Be careful when purchasing travel or vacation deals from a new service. You can search for its name plus "scam" or "reviews" online to try and learn about other people's experiences. Even if you're using a reputable service, watch out for people who ask you to send them a deposit directly or using an unusual platform. Also, be cautious about robocalls offering travel-related deals or packages, as those might be part of the scam.

10. Foreign Money Offers and Fake Check Scams

These types of fraud include the notorious emails from a foreign figure, such as a prince or president, who claims to have a fortune to share. They also include overpayment scams when the victim receives a large check and is asked to send back a portion of the money.

We mentioned overpayment scams as part of fraudulent job listings above, but they can happen in other situations, including when you sell something online or a fraudster claims to send you prize winnings. Even if the money looks like it's available in your account when you deposit the counterfeit or fraudulent check, the funds could be withdrawn several days later when the bank discovers the fraud.

How to Protect Yourself From Foreign Money Offers and Fake Check Scams

Ignore messages from anyone who claims to have a lot of money and asks for your personal or financial account information. Rather than sharing the money with you, they're actually out to steal your identity or savings.

Additionally, never accept a check for more than the correct amount. If you receive a check and aren't sure if it's legitimate, you can try contacting the issuing bank and reviewing the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s list of ways to spot a fake check.

What to Do if You're a Victim of Fraud

If you're the victim of fraud or a scam, you can take several steps to report the criminals and protect yourself.

  • Contact the relevant companies. You might have sent the fraudster a payment, shared access to one of your online accounts or had a conversation with the fraudster online. Contact all the relevant companies, such as the credit card issuer, bank, payment app and social media platform. Report what happened so they can try to stop the fraudster from targeting someone else and help secure your accounts.
  • Send a report to the FTC. Report the scam or fraud to the FTC on If you think your personal information was stolen, you can also file an identity theft report on In either case, the FTC will share some next steps you can take to protect yourself or recover your identity.
  • Add security freezes and fraud alerts. You have the right to add security freezes to several types of consumer reports, including credit reports, ChexSystems reports and National Consumer Telecom and Utilities Exchange (NCTUE) reports. These freezes limit who can access the reports, which might keep fraudsters from opening new accounts in your name. You also have the right to add fraud alerts to credit reports to warn creditors that you might be the victim of identity theft.
  • Improve your account security. Even if you recently created unique passwords for your accounts, you may want to update your passwords again. Also, turn on multifactor authentication (MFA) or use passkeys to add extra security to your online accounts.

Monitor Your Credit for Fraud

Fraudsters can use your trust and information to commit various types of crimes, including trying to open new credit accounts in your name. You can monitor your Experian credit report for free and get alerted to potentially suspicious activity, such as a new hard inquiry, credit card or loan. A paid premium identity theft protection membership can also monitor additional databases and warn you about other types of fraud, such as fraudulent use of your Social Security number or financial accounts.