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.
Senior Attorney, Bureau of Consumer Protection, FTC
Are you a nanny or caregiver who lists your services on sites like care.com, sittercity.com, or craigslist.com? A few months ago, we warned about a scam that targets caregivers like you. Here’s a reminder: a con artist emails or texts an offer to hire you. The scammer also sends you a check and asks you to deposit it, keep some money for your services, and send the rest to someone else to — supposedly — pay for special items or medical equipment. But the check is fake, and it can take weeks for a bank to discover the forgery. If you deposit the check and withdraw the funds, you’ll wind up owing the bank all that money.
Attorney, FTC's Division of Consumer & Business Education
If you serve – or have served – in the military, chances are you feel a pretty tight bond with your brothers- and sisters-in-arms. If you share a common experience with someone, it only makes sense that you trust them, want to associate with them, or even do business with them.
But here’s something to bear in mind: scammers count on your trust in fellow servicemembers – and use it against you. A con artist might have actual service experience or they might be lying about it. Either way, they’re highly skilled at exploiting a military connection to get in good with you. Once they have your trust, they use it to deflect any questions and to throw you off track while they cheat you. It’s known as affinity fraud – when someone uses their membership in a group to scam another member. It could be someone claiming you can trust them because of the shared experience of serving in the military.