Counsel, FTC's Division of Consumer & Business Education
Book lovers flock to their local library to pick up a favorite classic or the latest bestseller. But today library visitors also want and need a whole lot more. In addition to providing traditional services, librarians help diverse groups of people navigate a complicated world, including how to avoid scams.
As for scams, there’s one thing we know for sure: we’re all consumers – and we’re all targets for fraud. Scammers are good at what they do. They’re professionals who know how to create confusion and prey on emotions to throw people off-balance just long enough to take advantage. Our job is to give people a heads-up so that maybe they don’t get knocked off balance and they don’t get ripped off.
One thing we know about scammers — they want money, and they want it fast. That’s why, whatever the con they’re running, they usually ask people to pay a certain way. They want to make it easy for themselves to get the money — and nearly impossible for you to get it back.
Their latest method? iTunes gift cards. To convince you to pay, they might pretend to be with the IRS and say you’ll be arrested if you don’t pay back taxes right now. Or pose as a family member or online love interest who needs your help fast. But as soon as you put money on a card and share the code with them, the money’s gone for good.
Your phone rings. You recognize the number, but when you pick up, it’s someone else. What’s the deal?
Scammers are using fake caller ID information to trick you into thinking they are someone local, someone you trust – like a government agency or police department, or a company you do business with – like your bank or cable provider. The practice is called caller ID spoofing, and scammers don’t care whose phone number they use. One scammer recently used the phone number of an FTC employee. Here are a few tips for handling these calls.
Looking for a good time and good eats at a good price? Getting a deal on a food festival or other event is terrific. But don’t let scammers leave a bad taste in your mouth by taking a big bite out of your money — and giving you nothing in return.
Scammers are trying to get personal information from people by pretending to help with applications for disability benefits and claims. A recent alert from the Social Security Inspector General warns of this phishing scam, and — whether or not you’ve started an application for benefits — these scammers could contact you. They’re taking a shot in the dark, hoping that you have started an application, and hoping you’ll give them a little more info over the phone. To “complete the process,” they might ask you to give, or confirm, your Social Security number or bank account numbers.
If scammers get your information, you could face identity theft and benefit theft. So here are a few things you can do to help protect yourself.
Assistant Director, Division of Financial Practices, FTC
At the FTC, we sue abusive debt collectors and try to do right by people who’ve been harmed by unlawful practices. But we also try to protect people from being harmed in the first place. That’s exactly why I’m here: to warn you about debt collectors calling about debts that the FTC knows are bogus.
The devastation caused by earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan have left 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.
The FTC protects consumers by stopping unfair, deceptive or fraudulent practices in the marketplace. We conduct investigations, sue outfits and individuals that break the law, and inform people and businesses about their rights and responsibilities. In 2015, the FTC filed more than 100 law enforcement actions, obtained more than 175 orders against defendants, and refunded more than $22 million to consumers.
The FTC is a civil law enforcement agency. That means that while we can’t put people in jail, many of our partners can — and do.
There’s a new twist on tech-support scams — you know, the one where crooks try to get access to your computer or sensitive information by offering to “fix” a computer problem that doesn’t actually exist. Lately, we’ve heard reports that people are getting calls from someone claiming to be from the Global Privacy Enforcement Network. Their claim? That your email account has been hacked and is sending fraudulent messages. They say they’ll have to take legal action against you, unless you let them fix the problem right away.