Fraud is big business through out America and abroad. Each year the number of complaints and dollars lost continue to rise, even as we have become more and more aware of its existence. According to the 2016 Identity Fraud Study, $15 billion was stolen from 13.1 million U.S. consumers in 2015. That is just what was reported to the Federal Trade Commission in relation to identity theft and similar fraud. There are still other types of fraud perpetrated that have not been considered in this figure such as cybercrime, healthcare, insurance, welfare, and investment just to name a few.
We want you to remain diligent and informed. This plague can reach most any household.
Here a few current schemes to watch for:
Skimming - One of the more successful tools of 21st century crooks is the skimmer. Thieves attach devices or cameras to ATMs, gas pumps and other places people swipe their credit and debit cards. Once in place, this sneaky bit of electronics steals the magnetic strip information from your card or can obtain your card and PIN number from the recording. Watch for equipment that doesn’t quite match the unit and check your surrounding for possible cameras.
Suspicious Phone Calls – If anyone tells you to buy iTunes cards to pay the IRS, qualify for a grant, get a loan or bail out a family member, say “No.” They’re trying to scam you. The only place to use an iTunes card is at the iTunes store, to buy online music, apps or books. Additionally, if you have to pay to take advantage of any offer, it’s probably too good to be true.
Mail - Debt collection, grants, loan offers, and government issued program notices can look very official. Do a little research before responding. The US Postal Inspection Service keeps a list of common scams.
Looking for an opportunity, employment, or selling an item - You might see an ad or someone may contact you regarding an item you are selling. Essentially, they have a “reason” that the funds you are receiving are more than the item you are selling or the amount of money you are offered for the job. They tell you to deposit the check, keep part of it as your share, and wire or pay them the rest of the funds. Weeks after you complete the transaction, the check bounces and your bank tells you it was a fake. The money you kept as “your share” disappears and the money you gave them does too. Not to mention the fees you are on the hook for from your bank.
Charity Scams - It’s heartbreaking to see people lose their lives, homes, and businesses to the natural disasters or disease. But it’s despicable when scammers exploit such tragedies to appeal to your sense of generosity. If you’re looking for a way to give, the FTC urges you to be cautious of potential charity scams. Do some research to ensure that your donation will go to a reputable organization that will use the money as promised.
Here are a few resources and tips to avoid, identify, and report potential scams:
Trust your instincts – You have heard the old adage “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. Give yourself permission to stop and think carefully.
Check your bank and credit card statements regularly - Even a small debit can be a major issue. A scammer could be making a small purchase to see if the information they have stolen is useable. Report any unknown transactions to your financial institution immediately.
Watch out for robocalls and don’t always trust your caller ID – If it’s a robocall, just hang up. Don’t press 1 to get off their list, it could just lead to more calls. If they leave a legitimate sounding phone number, check the phonebook or the agency website before you call them back. * Sign up for Free Scam Alerts from the Federal Trade Commission – Go to www.ftc.gov/scams for more information.
Research and report – You can research or file a complaint with the following agencies: Federal Trade Commission (202) 326-2222 or www.ftc.gov; Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) (855) 411-2372 or www.consumerfinance.gov; Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General (800) 441-2555 or www.attorneygeneral.gov.