Each year, the National Consumers League (NCL) compiles all complaints into an annual Top Ten Scams Report to identify emerging threats – like scammers demanding payment via gift cards – that aid in alerting consumers, companies, and the government about growing trends in fraud.

Access the complete NCL 2018 report at Top Ten Scams report.

Learn how to avoid becoming a victim of the top 10 scams:

Friendship and Sweetheart Swindles

If someone you met online suddenly wants you to send money to pay for a family emergency or for them to come visit you, be wary. Romance scammers will strike up relationships with dozens or hundreds of victims in the hope of convincing them to send cash. Be especially careful if your new friend quickly asks you to move the conversation to text message, chat apps, or email instead of a dating website’s messaging platform.

Family/Friend Imposter

An urgent call or email from a family member asking for help can be hard to resist. The call or email may also come from someone saying they’re a lawyer, a doctor, or a law enforcement official that is in contact with your loved one. The “emergency” requires you to send money urgently. Before sending the money, try contacting the person in question or their parents on your own to verify the story first. Chances are, it’s a scammer trying to get you to send money before you can stop and think.

Fake Check Scams

If someone asks you to deposit a check into your personal checking account and then send all or a portion of the proceeds to them or someone they know, it’s a scam.


Fraudsters have become highly effective at making their emails and robocalls look and sound convincing. Beware of clicking on any links or attachments in an email that seems to be coming from a bank or other trusted institution. Instead, type in the bank’s web address or call the number on the back of your bill to verify before giving out any sensitive information like your bank account routing number, usernames or passwords.

Recovery/Refund Scams

These scams target people who have already lost money to another fraud. The scammer claims to be able to recover your lost funds for a fee. Don’t wire them money, give them credit card details, send a check, or give them any personal information. Simply hang up the phone or delete that email.

NCL depends on complaints from consumers to help them spot scams and, ultimately, to help law enforcement agencies investigate and prosecute scammers. If you’ve been a victim of a scam or been approached by a scammer, file a complaint via the secure complaint form.

If you are interested in learning more about the other common scams and how to avoid them, speak with a Community Resource Specialist: (408) 350-3200, option 1.