Identity Theft Prevention Awareness

Scam Spotting – Avoid These Common Scams

Thieves are talented when creating new and clever ways to defraud people of their money. They take advantage of current events, new technology, and human nature to get people to send money or give out personal information.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a good source for learning about new scams and how to prevent them, but thieves recently used the FTC as a cover for a prize scam. However, the FTC never gives out free prizes, doesn’t certify prizes, and doesn’t verify prizes. Scammers have even targeted soccer fans with claims of tickets to the 2018 World Cup Games in Russia.

Below are some common scams and what to do to prevent being a victim.

1. Charity Fraud
Someone contacts you asking for a donation to a charity, either on the phone or outside of the grocery store. It sounds like one you’ve heard of, and you’re eager to donate. But you’re suspicious because they’re asking for cash or wire transfer.

What Can You Do?
Ask them to mail you the information. If they’re outside of a grocery store, ask for literature or a website and do your research. Is your donation tax deductible? How do they want you to pay? Rule out anyone who asks you to send cash or wire money, and don’t ever give out your credit card information.

2. Tech Support Scams
Someone calls you saying he’s a computer technician with Microsoft or your Internet provider. He says there are viruses or other malware on your computer, and he needs remote access to your computer or you need new software to fix it.

What Can You Do?
Never give anyone control of your computer. If you are experiencing computer problems, call a legitimate company that deals with computer problems.

3. Online Dating Scams
You meet someone special on a dating website. Soon he wants to get your personal phone number because he’s in love with you and wants money for a plane ticket to visit you. Scammers, both male and female, make fake dating profiles, sometimes using photos of other people. Once they build a relationship, they ask for money to see you, and then disappear with your money.

What Can You Do?
Never send anyone money. Never wire money, put money on a prepaid debit card, or send cash to an online love interest. Chances are, you won’t get it back.

4. Prize Scams
You’ve just won $5,000, a diamond ring, or a luxury vacation, but you have to send a nominal fee in order to collect your prize. You may even receive an official-looking letter from a government agency complete with an official-looking logo telling you that you’ve won a prize. But, if you have to send a fee, deposit a check, or send tax money up front, it’s not a prize—it just may be a scam!

What Can You Do?
Never send money to anyone saying you’ve won a prize. Legitimate sweepstakes are free and by chance. Do some research before signing up for contests, because prize promoters might sell your information to advertisers. Legitimate prize promoters and telemarketers are legally required to give you certain information such as the odds of winning, the nature or value of the prize, and that entering is free. They also need to include terms and conditions to redeem the prize.

5. Health Care Scams
You’ve seen an ad on TV, you’ve received a notice in the mail, or you get a call about a new law that requires you to get a new health care card or how to get big discounts on health insurance. Maybe someone calls telling you they’re from the government and they need your Medicare number to issue a new card. Scammers know when it’s Medicare open season, or when health care is in the news, and target vulnerable populations like the elderly.

What Can You Do?
Before you share any personal or medical information, research the outfit making the health care claims. If you’re a Medicare recipient, call 1-800-MEDICARE to get more information.

These are just a few of the scams thieves use to get your information. They’re always thinking of new ways to obtain information from unsuspecting people: Time share scams, phantom debt schemes, concert ticket scams, or work from home scams. The bottom line is: If something sounds too good to be true, it’s usually a scam. Don’t give out any information to anyone until you’re sure it’s a legitimate corporation. Even then, do your research so you won’t fall prey to the next big scam.

When in doubt, you can always get help or information from the FTC, the nation’s consumer protection agency, at their toll-free hotline: 1-877-382-4357.