In the past few years, you’ve heard warnings from us about different scams that offered prizes like money, jewelry, or vacations – all in exchange for a fee. And we’ve heard from you to the tune of more than a quarter of a million complaints about prize and sweepstakes scams in the last three years. Thanks in part to those complaints, today the FTC put a stop to a sweepstakes scam targeting older people.
You get an email from a friend, with a link and a message: “Hi! Oprah says it’s excellent!” But did your friend really send this message? And what’s so excellent?
Millions of people got emails like this one, but not from their friends. Instead, according to the FTC, marketers hired by Sale Slash sent spam emails from hacked email and social media accounts. Why? To trick people into thinking the messages came from a friend. And, of course, to sell stuff.
What happens when you pay someone who says they’re going to help you, and they don’t? Well, in the case of HOPE Services, the FTC came calling.
Here’s the story: According to the FTC, a group of companies and individuals doing business as HOPE Services told consumers facing foreclosure they could get help from legitimate, government-backed programs, like Making Home Affordable — but only after they made three monthly trial payments into a so-called mortgage lender’s trust account.
The devastation caused by a massive earthquake in Nepal and the Katmandu Valley region has left many people asking how they can help. If you’re looking for a way to give, the Federal Trade Commission urges you to do some research to ensure that your donation will go to a reputable organization that will use the money as promised.
A couple of weeks ago, we told you about a sweepstakes scam using the FTC’s name to get people to send money. Now, there’s another sweepstakes-themed FTC imposter scam, and this one lays it on thick.
It starts with a letter from a lawyer in California. He says the FTC appointed him to notify you about a claim [spoiler: we didn’t], and includes a letter from FTC Commissioner Joshua Wright enlisting his help [spoiler: it’s fake].
The caller is irate, intimidating and — despite the foul language — sounds convincing. He says you must make good on a payday loan or your wages will be garnished. If you applied for a payday loan before, you might start questioning your memory: “Did I miss a payment? The caller has my information, so this must be legit…”
The last thing you need is a short paycheck — especially if you’re already in a bind. So you pay. Thing is, you don’t owe them a dime. It’s a scam.
Identity thieves may already have a lot of information about you – like your credit card number, the card’s expiration date, and your name, address, and phone number. With all that information in his hands, why would he call you? He’s after one vital piece of information – the security code on your credit card.
Here’s a scam with an FTC angle. The letter has an official-looking FTC seal and is signed by “FTC Director” Jessica Rich. It says someone at the FTC will help you claim a cash prize you’ve won, and will help ensure delivery. That is, after you pay off the more than $5,000 “Legal Registration Bond.”
The language might sound legal, and the letter might look legit. You might look up Jessica Rich and see she’s an actual FTC official. But the truth is, there’s nothing legal or official about it. It’s a fake letter designed to convince you to send money for a non-existent prize.
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but sometimes it’s illegal. Just ask the people behind First Time Credit Solutions, who promoted their business as “FTC Credit Solutions” until the real Federal Trade Commission shut them down.