You walk out of a VA facility, and see a booth with people offering free phones and cell service for veterans, all thanks to a government program. It sounds compelling, right?
“Free” might end up costing you a lot of money. The FTC has heard about booths like these — and what happens next. Months later, veterans who signed up for the program get notices saying they need to provide personal information and documents to prove they meet the income requirements — something the people pitching the program never mentioned. Many veterans find that their incomes are too high to qualify for the program, and face losing service or paying for something they thought would be free.
Each year, the U.S. State Department holds a Diversity Visa (DV) lottery and millions of people from eligible countries enter their names. They hope to win a chance to apply for a U.S. visa and become legal permanent residents. The State Department runs the only legitimate site for the lottery: www.dvlottery.state.gov, and there’s no fee to enter. If you get an email or see a website that claims to be about the DV lottery, but asks you to send money, don’t click on a link or give up personal information.
Did you ever get an email that seemed legit, but it asked you to click a link or give up some personal information? Well, if you play massive multiplayer online games, be warned: phishers are looking for ways to get those emails into your inbox.
Phone scammers spend their days making trouble. They waste our time, tie up our phone lines and harass us with ugly language. Some do much, much worse. The FTC has heard from people who got calls from scammers saying, “I’ve kidnapped your relative,” and naming a brother, sister, child or parent. “Send ransom immediately by wire transfer or prepaid card,” they say, “or something bad will happen.”
They’re lying. They didn’t kidnap anyone, but they hope you’ll panic and rush to pay ransom before checking the story.
Recently, I told you about the new credit and debit chip cards designed to reduce fraud, including counterfeiting. Now, I'm reporting on scammers who are trying to take advantage of the millions of consumers who haven't yet received a chip card.
It’s been a year of weather woes, with South Carolina being the latest victim – floods have swept across much of the state. You can be sure it’s only a matter of time before scammers come calling to wreak a different type of devastation.
Here are some ways to arm yourself against scammers who use weather emergencies to cheat people.
Scammers are big on hiding behind fake names and titles. We’ve heard from hundreds of people who got calls from fake ‘court officials’ about jury duty. The fraudsters claimed to be court officers, accused people of skipping jury duty and said they had to pay a fine immediately or face arrest. If you get a call like that, hang up. That’s not a real official calling.
Growing up, we all learned that money doesn’t grow on trees. Here’s another hard truth: the federal government is not giving away thousands of dollars in grants to people who pay their taxes on time, have no criminal records, never declared bankruptcy or were ‘selected in a demographic survey.' Anyone who claims you’ll get ‘free money’ for those reasons is trying to scam you.
Counsel for International Consumer Protection, FTC
People who’ve recently arrived in the US have a lot of adjustments to make. For many refugees and immigrants, and some of the social services groups who help them, the basics come first: figuring out language, food, shelter, and work. Understanding how to avoid fraud isn’t high on the list – until a scam finds a recent arrival.
That’s why the FTC has created new materials to help refugees and immigrants spot, avoid and report scams. We worked closely with the International Rescue Committee to create a short handbook to help anyone identify a sure sign of a scam.