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Top 5 financial scams: have you witnessed any of these?

Financial scams are becoming more and more sophisticated and more often than not, victims hand over their money to the scammers of their own will – no hacking or violence involved. Paysera, a leading payment gateway service provider in the Baltics and an international fintech for everyday finance management, is constantly educating its clients on how not to become a victim of fraud. Read about what the top 5 most popular tricks that scammers go for to get your money are.

1. Classifieds scams

What do the victims say?
"I found an advert on the internet, made an advance payment, and didn't receive the item"

The most common type of fraud (50% of cases)

Between a few and several hundred euros

How does it work?
Second-hand clothes, pots, handbags, strollers, lawnmowers, and pedigree pets – everything that is sold on classifieds portals can turn out to be scam-bait for the buyers, who, after transferring the money to the scammers, end up with no money and no purchase.

The fraudster posts an online advert for a pram, for example. Once they have received the payment, the criminal often tries to buy time and continues to communicate by sending pictures or other fake proof that they have supposedly sent the parcel. When the buyer does not receive the item and contacts law enforcement or the financial institution, a week or two later, the scammer has already been long gone, the ad has been deleted, the phone has been switched off, and the money is gone, either withdrawn from the account or transferred to a foreign bank.


How to protect yourself from classifieds scams?

  • Check other buyers' reviews of the seller.
  • If the seller's name, phone number, or account number is listed in the advert, please search for more information about the person.
  • View the seller's social media profile.
  • Email the seller to make sure the email address is active.
  • Ask the seller for more information, and check regarding returns and warranty.
  • Be critical of sellers who refuse to give you this information.
  • Don't judge a seller by their website alone, a visually appealing website can be created in no time.
  • Be careful when dealing with people/companies from abroad.

2. Investment fraud

What do the victims say?
"The investment website seemed very reliable and the manager on the phone promised high returns"

One in five cases of fraud (20% of cases)

From 500 EUR to hundreds of thousands of euros

How does it work?
People feel that inflation is eating away at their savings, and investment brokers or investment managers, who usually promise high investment profits with guaranteed returns, try to take advantage of this.

Convinced to give it a try, the victim transfers the first 500 EUR or 1000 EUR to the alleged investment platform. A week or so later, the scammer invites the investor to a video call and shows the excellent results of the investment on the fictitious investment platform.

Once the investor is hooked, they start making even bigger payments of 3000 EUR or 5000 EUR. Then, the scammers' game with the victim takes off. To maintain trust and make the investor feel safe, the criminals sometimes even transfer back a few hundred euros – the amount the investor supposedly managed to earn in one week.

This cat-and-mouse game can last for months or even years until it becomes almost impossible to recover the money they have been sending to the scammers all this time.

How to protect yourself from investment scams?

  • Do your homework: check whether the company is licensed to provide investment services, contact the central bank to check whether the company is operating legally, and check whether the company has received an inadequate number of complaints.
  • Be critical of promises made by representatives of investment platforms who contact you by phone or video call, especially if you have never seen these people in person.
  • Be particularly critical of promises of guaranteed returns or high earnings.
  • Be sure to enquire about all investment conditions.

3. Phishing and smishing

What do the victims say?
"I received a text message from my bank saying something is happening on my account and I need to log in urgently"

The crime rate is rising at a high pace (15% of cases)

Ranging from tens to thousands of euros

How does it work?
Recently, a new, but until now rarely used, type of fraud has become more popular among online fraudsters. Scammers send SMS messages and thanks to modern technology they can use any name they want. So if you have previously received an SMS message from your bank (let's say its name is 'Bank Ltd') and the scammer generates an identical name ('Bank Ltd'), the scammer's message will go to the same message thread on your smartphone as the one that your actual bank once sent you.


How to protect yourself from phishing and smishing?

  • Your financial partner will almost never send you SMS and emails with links to log in to your electronic banking accounts. Ignore such messages and report them to your financial institution.
  • Your financial partner or public authorities (e.g. the FNTT) will never call you and ask you to provide your electronic banking login details during the call. Simply hang up.
  • When logging in, check your bank's website address to make sure there are no unnecessary characters, letters, or numbers.
  • Do not approve payments that you didn't initiate yourself.

4. Stolen payment card details

What do the victims say?
"Someone used my card in London, even though I have it with me."

10% of cases

From a few to several hundred euros

How does it work?
Scammers don't necessarily need to steal your card to get your card details. Some fraudsters don't need to get hold of your card at all.

You can be at risk of losing your card number, expiry date, and CVV code when you pay at unreliable e-shops whose primary purpose is to collect customer login details. In some cases, those who obtain the card details do not act immediately. It can take six months or even a year before you realise that someone is using the card you have in your wallet to make payments in another country.

Another previously popular way for fraudsters to make a copy of your card is known as skimming, which involves scanning your payment card details with a remote reader installed by criminals in an ATM or POS terminal.


How to protect yourself from card scams?

  • Before inserting your card into an ATM, check that the ATM is not damaged or not looking as usual
  • If the buttons on the ATM keypad are hard to press, this could be a sign that a fake keypad may have been placed on top of the actual keypad.
  • Try to use ATMs that are in highly visible, public places.
  • When entering your PIN, cover the keypad with your other hand.
  • To be safe, keep your money in a separate current account and top up your card from time to time before making purchases.
  • If you have entered your card details on a suspicious website or disclosed your details to others, please notify your financial institution immediately.

5. Romance scams

What do the victims say?
"I met a man online. We chatted online for a while. He asked me for money for a trip to come and visit me, and when I made the transfer, he disappeared."

An increasingly popular type of fraud (5% of cases)

Ranging from tens to thousands of euros

How does it work?
Romantic scams exist not only in the movies. Single and lonely people are the easiest target, and lately, there has been an increase in the number of elderly women who have been tricked by romantic scammers.

A typical situation. You're looking for a partner and along comes a handsome, polite, easy-going man, usually from another country. You chat, you talk on the phone, and everything seems pretty normal. Until one-day disaster strikes and the new friend asks for an urgent loan, which he promises to pay back promptly. Emotionally, these are probably the most painful crimes because the victims end up losing not only the money but also the person they thought was their friend or loved one.

There are many cases when victims do not want to believe it, feel ashamed, and do not want to admit that they have fallen victim to a romantic scam. Sometimes the employees of financial institutions have to persuade customers to stop transferring money to someone they have never seen in person.


How to protect yourself from romantic scams and heartbreak?

  • If you've met someone online, make sure you check their profile and photos thoroughly in an online search (don’t forget that you can also reverse search photos).
  • Be critical of the high number of likes on your new acquaintance's photos. These likes could have been added by the same person using fake profiles or bots.
  • Do not share excessive personal information online.
  • Don't send money to strangers you haven't met in person.
  • Tell your family about your new acquaintance and ask them for an 'outside opinion' if you are asked to transfer money.
  • Don't believe in love at first sight 😢

A warning from your financial institution

"People watch and read stories about victims of scams and often think, "it won't happen to me". Unfortunately, the reality is different as more and more victims emerge. A young man enters his card details on an unfamiliar website and then allows fraudsters to steal them. A student receives a link via SMS, logs into a fake e-banking account and lets fraudsters into their account. An elderly woman meets a romantic foreigner on the internet who, after receiving a transfer for a ticket to visit her, takes off and disappears. These people also believed that this would not happen to them," says Gintautas Mežetis, CEO of Paysera.


According to G. Mežetis, the rise of financial fraud is a global phenomenon, and the Baltic States are no exception. Therefore, basic knowledge of the most common methods of money scams will help you to be more vigilant and to better identify fraudsters who are after your money.