Sunny · 59°


Learn about common scams and how to recognize them.

National Cons & Scams List

Bail Bond Scam

The victim is contacted by phone by a person claiming to be a friend of a relative of the victim. The victim is told that the relative has been arrested for an outstanding warrant or some other minor charge, and needs money to get out of jail. The "friend" asks the victim for the bail money. If the victim agrees, the caller will arrange for himself or another person to pick up the money.

Family Member in Distress

A grandparent receives a frantic call from someone they believe to be their grandchild or relative. The supposed relative sounds distressed and may be calling from a noisy location. The supposed grandchild claims to be involved in some type of trouble while traveling in Canada or overseas, such as being arrested or in a car accident or needing emergency car repairs, and asks the grandparent to immediately wire money to post bail or pay for medical treatment or car repairs. The scammer typically asks for several thousand dollars, and may even call back again several hours or days later asking for more money. He or she may claim embarrassment about the alleged trouble and ask the grandparent to keep it a secret.

A variation of the scam may involve two scammers — the first scammer calls and poses as a grandchild under arrest. The second scammer, posing as some type of law enforcement officer, then gets on the phone with the grandparent and explains what fines need to be paid. Alternatively, the scammer may pretend to be a family friend or neighbor.

A common theme of the scam across the nation is the caller's request for the grandparent to wire money through Western Union or MoneyGram or to provide bank account routing numbers. Wiring money is like sending cash; there are no protections for the sender. Typically there is no way you can reverse the transaction, trace the money, or recover payment from the telephone con artists.

Jury Duty Scam

A senior receives a phone call from the county courthouse saying that because she missed jury duty that week, a warrant for her arrest was being issued. It involves a person calling the victim on the phone, posing as law enforcement and threatening them with contempt of court for failure to report for jury duty. The scammer often has access to the victims' personal information, including their address and information about recent moves.

They may even use the real name of a police officer and make the caller ID look like it's coming from a law enforcement agency.

The scammers have been telling victims that there is a warrant for their arrest unless they pay a fine over the phone — often insisting they use pre-paid cards, wire transfers, gift cards or even dropping cash off at a physical location.

It's yet another identity theft scam that tries to scare people into divulging personal information such as birth dates, social security numbers, and credit card account numbers. After originating in upstate New York in 2001, it has spread to other states. These calls may actually appear on your caller ID to be coming from the county courthouse - a technique called "spoofing" which allows scammers to choose any telephone number they want and have it displayed on a recipient's caller ID.

In Marion County, Iowa, your notice to appear for jury duty will always come through the mail. 

Medicare Scam

Beware of any unsolicited call regarding your Medicare benefits.

Scan Thieves will try to intimidate you in giving out your personal information over the phone and threaten large bills and cancelation. Hang up and call your provider.
Suspects will also call and offer you free items that may or not be needed such as pain cream and braces. If your doctor has not prescribed them. do not accept these items. Scammers will attempt to charge Medicare for inflated cost such as a $49 jar of pain crème for $32,000. (actual case) 
Suspects can also duplicate cards with your information and then they are used leaving you responsible for the charge.
Never give you personal information over the phone. Hang up and find the listed number for the agency then call them and confirm that the call was a scam.
Medicare Scam Alert in the News

Money Mules & Money Laundering

A Money Mule is a person who transfers money acquired illegally in person, through a courier service or electronically, on behalf of others. He/She is paid with a small percentage of the money transferred from the account of the mule to the scam operator.

Most of the Money Mules are "recruited" online, after being misled to think that they are being employed legitimately, while what they do is transfer money illegally. By using accounts of “Money Mules,” the cybercrooks effectively reduce the chances the police have to track a transaction to the actual crook.

Criminals use witting or unwitting subjects as the middleman in these financial transactions. This is Money Laundering. Money laundering is the concealing of the source of money obtained illegally by passing it through what appears to be legal transactions such as bank transfers or commercial transactions. This allows the criminal to obtain money through channels that make it more difficult for law enforcement to track. Just the process of being paid to forward money by a non-financial institution is illegal. The taking money obtained in a criminal action such as elder financial fraud is the felony crime of Money Laundering.  

Investigators who routinely investigate these types of scams have found that they often originate outside of the country. Consequently, the scammers utilize Money Mules to facilitate the scams and move the money and illicit goods to them. The Money Mules move stolen money through bank accounts, Money Grams, and other forms of currency trade.

The FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice as well as local law enforcement have focused on successfully prosecuting these money mules.

Moving Scam

According the Better Business Bureau, Moving Scams receives on average 13,000 complaints a year.

Crooked Movers can be found on the internet and seem reputable until they get your down payment. Many companies will outsource the job to non-skilled outfits. They may take your down payment then will be hard to contact. They may take your property then add unexpected fees. They may say that the amount of the load exceeds the initial estimate.

When they finally arrive, many times weeks beyond the expected delivery they ask for additional money including storage fees. They sometimes hold your property hostage.

Check for references first and look for complaints. Do your own research. There are moving associations that can be checked.

Phishing Scams

There are numerous methods used by thieves to get your personal information. Quite often, the thieves send out emails claiming to be officials from various banks or a state or federal agency; or they go phishing using using fake websites which are made to look like the real thing.

The criminals who produce these sites are looking to obtain your personal data which  is used to steal your money and assets. Do not be fooled. Look up the real website information before you respond to any advertisement. Do not provide your personal information to any unsolicited contact.

They ask you for personal information either via email or fake website, giving you numerous plausible scenarios. Do not ever give out personal information including your date of birth, social security number, passport number, bank account numbers, or your address.

If you are unsure, always look up the phone number, email address. and website for the agency and contact them using the published number.

Remember that the thieves will often spoof the actual phone number for the agency making the email or telephone number appear credible.

Social Security Scams

The Social Security Scam has been very successful.

The suspects have been located overseas as well as in the U.S. and is very common for this scam to use money mules.

Scammers switched from claiming they’re from the Social Security Administration, not the Internal Revenue Service. It's same scam just different agency. They claim your social security card has been compromised and offer to give you a new number. They suggest that in order to stop from getting your account drained they will need to move your money to a secure account.

They convince you to transfer you money into their account provided by the Social Security Office. They convince you that they are legitimate by sending you a picture of their badge and threaten you with arrest if you don’t comply.

They often tell you the money you are to send them is a fine or fee and will tell you to obtain a government authorized bank card which, they will tell you is any gift card. They will have you send them a picture of the card or have you give them the numbers. When you do that your money is gone. They will then ask for more money.
Never give anyone you social security number over the phone. Anytime you are threatened over the phone by someone claiming to be a from government agency you should hang up the phone.

Fake Unemployment Websites

The Department of Justice has received reports that fraudsters are creating websites mimicking unemployment benefit websites, including state workforce agency (SWA) websites, for the purpose of unlawfully capturing consumers’ personal information.
To lure consumers to these fake websites, fraudsters send spam text messages and emails purporting to be from an SWA and containing a link. The fake websites are designed to trick consumers into thinking they are applying for unemployment benefits and disclosing personally identifiable information and other sensitive data. That information can then be used by fraudsters to commit identity theft.

Unless from a known and verified source, consumers should never click on links in text messages or emails claiming to be from an SWA offering the opportunity to apply for unemployment insurance benefits. Instead, anyone needing to apply for unemployment benefits should go to an official SWA website, a list of which can be found on the Career One Stop website

Schemes that use links embedded in unsolicited text messages and emails in attempts to obtain personally identifiable information are commonly referred to as phishing schemes. Phishing messages may look like they come from government agencies, financial intuitions, shipping companies, and social media companies, among many others. Carefully examine any message purporting to be from a company and do not click on a link in an unsolicited email or text message. Remember that companies generally do not contact you to ask for your username or password. When in doubt, contact the entity purportedly sending you the message, but do not rely on any contact information in the potentially fraudulent message. 

If you receive a text message or email claiming to be from an SWA and containing a link or other contact information, please report the communication to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) by calling 866-720-5721 or using the NCDF Web Complaint Form found on this section of the Justice Department website.

Resources for Victims of Scams

Elder Fraud Hotline
If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline. Call 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This U.S. Department of Justice hotline is managed by the Office for Victims of Crime.

Marion County Sheriff’s Office
Detective Short – (641) 828-2220

Attorney General’s Office
[email protected]
(515) 281-5926
888-777-4590 (outside of the Des Moines metro area)
Fax: (515) 281-6771

Office of the Attorney General of Iowa
Consumer Protection Division
Hoover State Office Building
1305 E. Walnut Street


Back · Marion County Attorney