Associate Director, Division of Marketing Practices, FTC
For years, we’ve been hearing about lottery scams: the imposter who convinces you that you’ve won the lottery (you didn’t) – and all you have to do is pay some fees to collect your millions (you won’t). And for years, we’ve been hearing about lottery scams that originate in Jamaica, where telemarketing lottery scams became a cottage industry in some parts of the island.
Earlier this week, more than 80 people came together in Los Angeles. Federal, state, and local government agencies were there, along with legal services organizations, the State Bar, and non-profit groups. Our goal? To figure out how we can work together to protect immigrant consumers.
Last week I told you about health insurer Anthem’s data breach affecting more than 80 million customers. This week, I’m telling you about scam artists who are sending phony “Anthem” emails that pretend to help customers, but actually phish for their personal information.
Last week, hackers hit Anthem, the nation's second-largest health insurance company. As many as 80 million customers had their account information stolen. The pilfered data includes names, birth dates, medical IDs, Social Security numbers, street addresses, email addresses and employment information.
If you’re worried about your personal information ending up in the wrong hands, the FTC has a helpful reminder. A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, lets you limit access to your credit report, which makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.
“Hello, we have been trying to reach you. This call is officially a final notice from the IRS, Internal Revenue Service. The reason of this call is to inform you that IRS is filing a lawsuit against you.” That was the message on my answering machine when I returned home from work.
Tax identity theft is the theme of the week, but it’s not the only tax scam we’re talking about. Complaints to the FTC about IRS imposter scams have shot up over the last year — by almost 50,000 complaints.
Here’s what happens: You get a call from a scammer pretending to be with the IRS, saying you’ll be arrested if you don’t pay taxes you owe right now. You’re told to wire it or put it on a prepaid debit card. They might threaten to deport you or say you’ll lose your driver’s license. Some even know your Social Security number, and they fake caller ID so you think it really is the IRS calling.
Assistant Director, Division of Marketing Practices, FTC
When the headlines change, scammers follow: Natural disaster? Charity scams will follow. Medicare open season? Health care scams will follow. So we know from experience that, when immigration is in the headlines, scams will follow.
Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re in the immigration process – or would like to be – regardless of what’s in the news.