Finance Globe

U.S. financial and economic topics from several finance writers.
6 minutes reading time (1132 words)

Avoid Being Scammed

It seems like the current economic difficulties have many people working harder to earn extra money - and that includes thieves and scam artists.

The Federal Trade Commission, the nation's consumer protection agency against fraud, issued an alert on Thursday about a scam where fraudsters attempt to trick people out of their money by calling people on the phone and telling them they've won a lottery.

The scam artists claim to be from the FTC, and even use internet technology that may show up on the caller I.D. as the FTC headquarters in Washington D.C.

The scam continues when they are told they must pre-pay the taxes and insurance, an amount that may be anywhere from $1000 to $10,000, before they can collect their "winnings." The caller tells their victim to wire the funds or send a check, at which point the scam artist disappears with the money.

The FTC has receive numerous reports from consumers about this scam, and it appears that these unscrupulous crooks tend to prey on older citizens and their families. But anyone could be contacted by these creeps, so be aware of these types of scams and warn your loved ones about them.

Also, keep in mind that legitimate sweepstakes and lotteries will never require you to pay upfront fees of any kind to collect your winnings. Scammers try to scare people into thinking that they won't receive their money if they don't pay first, when in fact, there were never any winnings to begin with.

Avoid Being Scammed
Don't trust a phone call, website, or email just because caller I.D. or the sender's web address looks like it comes from a legitimate company or agency. Technology allows scam artists to look like they are from somewhere that you probably trust - scams have been reported where the crook looks like they are from the IRS, the FTC, and well-known financial institutions.

Follow the same identity theft prevention protocol no matter who the caller on the phone claims to be:
  • Don't give out any personal identifying information through a phone call that you didn't initiate, such as your Social Security number, date of birth, mother's maiden name, account numbers or passwords.
  • If you initiate a phone call where you're likely to give out that information, such as to your credit card issuer, make sure you call the number provided on your statements.
  • Don't click on links that you receive in emails to contact a government agency or company you do business with; go to their known web address instead. Websites may look like they are from the agency or company you trust, but you may be redirected to a scam site instead.
  • Don't send any of your sensitive personal information over email to anyone, even if you know it is a legitimate web address; email is not secure and may be intercepted by crooks who want to steal your identity.
  • Make sure that you only send that type of information on a secure website, as indicated by the "s" on "https".
    Bill pay, applying for credit, and online shopping checkout should always have "https" on the web address of any legitimate service provider or merchant.
  • Use anti-virus, anti-spyware, and malware protection on your computer, and update the programs often.
  • Recognize that though many crooks like to remain unseen with the help of modern technology, some will be bold enough to knock on your door to attempt to scam you. Flood victims in Puerto Rico have been warned about an ongoing scam in which the crooks claim to be from FEMA or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, then charge the victim a fee to "process" a fake registration for a home inspection, obtain personal information to steal their identity, or take money for repairs that never materialize. Talk about kicking someone when they're down - these creeps have no qualms about that.
  • Don't give out personal information or money to anyone until you verify who they really are, even if they knock on your door with a believable story.
  • A badge and uniform are helpful indicators, but remember that anyone who's determined can fake a badge or steal clothing.
  • Call the agency's listed office number to verify if you have any doubts about the person's true identity.
Remember, the false sense of urgency works to the scam artists' advantage.
Whether they contact you by phone, the internet, or in person, they often come up with intricate stories to prey on their victim's fear or greed, and often try to convince the victim that they will lose something they have or miss out on something else, if they don't give in to the scam artist's requests for money or personal information. And, they often appear to be friendly and act like they are on your side, so it's often very hard to distinguish that these people are accomplished liars.

They often use statements that sound similar to this:
  • "Time is running out, you have a limited time to act."
  • "If you don't respond within 48 hours, we'll close your account."
  • "We've noticed suspicious activity on your account and need to you to verify some information."
  • "The winnings will go to the next person if you don't claim them by submitting the fee."
  • "I want to make you a deal that benefits both us us but you have to act now before my boss finds out."
  • "We can give you credit when others won't - but you must first pay the application fee."
Scam artists typically use the time factor when pitching their scams. That works to their advantage in a number of ways:
  • It doesn't give the victim time to really think about the situation, to verify the legitimacy of the deal, or to ask well thought-out questions that may blow a hole through the scammers' story.
  • The quicker they are about getting in and out, the less of a chance they have of being caught by officials who may be on to them- thinking like a burglar.
  • It lets them victimize more people within a shorter time frame, allowing them to scam more money quicker.
So no matter what guise the scam is portrayed in, be aware that scam artists are out there, attempting to steal from consumers. And their targets aren't just the uninformed, the weak, or the desperate, though many of those who can least afford it have lost their life savings to these ruthless predators. Many well-educated, financially successful people have been victimized by scam artists; all it takes is trusting the wrong person. If you've been a victim of the aforementioned scam, or any other scam, or even if you suspect an attempted scam, please contact the Federal Trade Commission to report the suspicious activity at www.ftc.gov.



Sources:
The Federal Trade Commission
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
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Friday, 18 October 2019

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