Fraud Glossary & Resources

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Corporate Account Takeover and Information Security

Glossary of Fraud  Terms

Advance Fee Fraud

When scammers require the victim to pay a fee in order to receive funds from a winning lottery ticket, loan, dead relative, etc. For more information on advance fee fraud, please visit

ATM Fraud

Occurs when an ATM or debit card is used to immediately withdraw funds from an account using a PIN-based transaction at an ATM.

Check Fraud

Fraud related to checks, including counterfeiting, forgery, and paperhanging. For more information on check fraud, visit

Corporate Account Takeover (CATO)

An evolving form of electronic crime that exploits a business’s ability to initiate transactions via Internet Banking. Cyber criminals often target the financial accounts of owners and employees of small and mid-sized businesses, which may have limited anti-fraud controls in place. These thieves gain access to computer systems to steal confidential banking information, allowing them to impersonate the business and initiate unauthorized wire and/or ACH transactions to accounts held by accomplices. Often, stolen funds cannot be recovered.

Credit Card Fraud

A single fraudulent transaction made with a credit card. This may be the result of an account takeover or use of a counterfeit card with the victim’s account number.


Fraud perpetrated on the Internet or through the use of computers.

Debit Card Fraud 

When a debit card is used to immediately withdraw funds from an account.

Directory Advertising Schemes

The sale of advertising space in a non-existent magazine or directory. Generally, a fake directory is shown to the potential victim who then pays for advertising to appear in a future publication. The thief then disappears with the victim’s funds.

Dumpster Diving

The practice of rummaging through someone’s trash to obtain personal information used to commit identity theft.


The process of making or adapting documents, such as a check, with the intent to deceive.


A theft, concealment, and conversion of another person’s assets, money, or information.

Ghost Terminal

A skimming (see "Skimming" below) device where a fake touch pad and reader are placed over a legitimate ATM terminal. Reader obtains card information and PINs, but the transaction is not completed.

Home-based Businesses

Many companies sell pieces of products that can be assembled at home under the pretense that they will buy the product back from the person after it has been assembled.

Identity Theft

A common fraud scheme involving the use, or attempted use, of a person’s identifying information without authority. A person's name, Social Security number, driver’s license number and/or address are used to obtain credit, merchandise, and services in the name of the victim that benefits the thief. For more information on identity theft, please visit


Software that steals identifying information by releasing viruses or worms, or presenting ads.

Nigerian Letter Scheme

See "Advance Fee Fraud" above.


A type of check fraud where checks are written on closed accounts.


An attack in which a user is fooled into entering sensitive data into a malicious website that impersonates a legitimate website.


When fraudsters use fake emails and websites posing as legitimate and trusted organizations to fool recipients into divulging personal financial information that is then used to commit identity theft.

Ponzi Scheme

Generally defined as an illegal business practice in which new investors’ money is used to make payments to earlier investors.

Pyramid Schemes

Generate revenue by continually recruiting new members. These operations may offer merchandise or services for sale, but the only significant revenues come from recruitment.


When fraudsters use the perception of a threat to download or pay for fake software to remove a virus on their computer. The software has limited or no benefit to the consumer, or may be a virus to hijack the computer and gain access to personal information.

Scavenger or Revenge Scheme

Fraud that involves a company that has previously conned a consumer. Using a different name, the same organization contacts the consumer again and asks if the victim would like to help put the unethical company out of business and retrieve their stolen funds. The company requires an up-front fee to finance the investigation.

Shoulder Surfing

Observing someone using a PIN by covertly looking over their shoulder or using a camera phone to take pictures of card numbers.

Social Engineering

A means of gaining access to a system in which the hacker uses his or her verbal skills to deceive victims into disclosing information they ought not to divulge, or convinces victims to commit acts that facilitate the hacker’s scheme.


A common method used by fraudsters to obtain payment card information. The “skimmer” device is a small tool with a mag-stripe reader that stores the information on a payment card. Generally the card is swiped through the skimmer when making an ATM withdrawal or a purchase at a location where the consumer provides their card but does not view the transaction process (such as a restaurant). The information is then used to create counterfeit cards or is sold. For more information on skimming, visit


Unsolicited commercial email often sent in bulk quantities.


A software program that may be installed on your computer without your consent to monitor your use, send pop-up ads, redirect your computer to certain websites, or record keystrokes that could lead to identity theft.

Trojan Horse

The covert placement of instructions in a program that causes the computer to perform unauthorized functions but still allows the program to perform its intended purpose.


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