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Current Scams

Wise giving in the wake of Hurricane Harvey

August 28, 2017
by  Colleen Tressler 
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

It’s heartbreaking to see people lose their lives, homes, and businesses to the ongoing flooding in Texas. 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.

Consider these tips when asked to give:
• Donate to charities you know and trust with a proven track record with dealing with disasters.
• Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events. Check out the charity with the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
• Designate the disaster so you can ensure your funds are going to disaster relief, rather than a general fund.
• Never click on links or open attachments in e-mails unless you know who sent it. You could unknowingly install malware on your computer.
• Don’t assume that charity messages posted on social media are legitimate. Research the organization yourself.
• When texting to donate, confirm the number with the source before you donate. The charge will show up on your mobile phone bill, but donations are not immediate.
• Find out if the charity or fundraiser must be registered in your state by contacting the National Association of State Charity Officials. If they should be registered, but they're not, consider donating through another charity.

To learn more, go to Charity Scams. For tips to help you prepare for, deal with, and recover from a severe weather event, visit Dealing with Weather Emergencies.





Scammers phish for mortgage closing costs
March 21, 2016
by  Colleen Tressler 
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

Buying a home is exciting. You saved for the down payment, scheduled the move, and are dreaming of planting new roots. Closing is right around the corner… unless a scammer gets your settlement fees first.

The Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of Realtors® are warning home buyers about an email and money wiring scam. Hackers have been breaking into some consumers’ and real estate professionals’ email accounts to get information about upcoming real estate transactions. After figuring out the closing dates, the hacker sends an email to the buyer, posing as the real estate professional or title company.
The bogus email says there has been a last minute change to the wiring instructions, and tells the buyer to wire closing costs to a different account. But it’s the scammer’s account. If the buyer takes the bait, their bank account could be cleared out in a matter of minutes. Often, that’s money the buyer will never see again.

If you’re buying a home and get an email with money-wiring instructions, STOP. Email is not a secure way to send financial information, and your real estate professional or title company should know that. If it’s a phishing email, report it to the FTC.
Here are some ideas to help you avoid phishing scams:

•Don’t email financial information. It’s not secure.
•If you’re giving your financial information on the web, make sure the site is secure. Look for a URL that begins with https (the "s" stands for secure). And, instead of clicking a link in an email to go to an organization’s site, look up the real URL and type in the web address yourself.
•Be cautious about opening attachments and downloading files from emails, regardless of who sent them. These files can contain malware that can weaken your computer’s security.
•Keep your operating system, browser, and security software up to date.



Phony calls about health insurance - February 22, 2016
by Bridget Small
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

 
Robocalls can be more annoying than a lingering head cold. Recently, some people got robocalls that seemed to be about health insurance and the Health Insurance Marketplace, but the calls were a con. The callers were phishing for personal information. People who work in the Marketplace don’t make cold calls, and they never ask for personal information. If you get a call like this, hang up.

The phone numbers showed up with a local area code. The recorded message sounded urgent: “You need to buy health insurance or face a fine. To learn more, press 1.” A person who works in the Health Insurance Marketplace got the call and knew it was fishy, so she pressed 1. The operator claimed to ‘work with the law,’ and asked for the person’s full name, date of birth, phone number, income information and Social Security number. The person who got the call knew it was nonsense, so she hung up and contacted the FTC.

If you get a recorded sales call, but you didn’t give the caller written permission to call you, the call is illegal. Don’t press 1 to speak to the operator or get your name taken off the list, and don’t give any personal information. If you respond, you’ll probably get more calls. If you want information about health insurance in your state, visit HealthCare.gov. If you get a call like this, please report it to the FTC.


Here’s what snow days are great for
February 8, 2016

by Cristina Miranda
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC


Snowed in? Here’s a cabin-fever buster – catch up on FTC videos, games, and audio tips! It’s the quickest way to learn how to protect yourself, and your family, from fraud and scams.

Our videos can tell you how to detect identity theft, spot money-wiring scams, or deal with debt collectors. You can also learn how to evaluate online reviews and recommendations when shopping, or gather tips for dealing with robocalls.

In the mood for something interactive? Play the Weight Loss Challenge game to learn how to tell fact from fiction when it comes to weight-loss claims. For some family fun, teach your kids how to identify ads and understand their messages with Admongo.gov.

Short on time (because you’ve got to shovel)? Tune in to our one-minute audio tips, and learn how to avoid government imposter, charity, or online dating scams.


Scammers fake Social Security email
January 25, 2016
by Amy Hebert
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

The subject line says “Get Protected,” and the email talks about new features from the Social Security Administration (SSA) that can help taxpayers monitor their credit reports, and know about unauthorized use of their Social Security number. It even cites the IRS and the official-sounding “S.A.F.E Act 2015.” It sounds real, but it’s all made-up.

It’s a phishing email to get you to click on a scammer’s link. If you do, a scammer can install malware — like viruses and spyware — on your computer. Or, the link might send you to a spoof site — a lookalike website set up by a scammer to trick you into entering your personal information.

Not sure if an email is really from the government? Here are a couple of clues. Did the email end up in your junk folder? Email providers use filters to help catch phishing scams and spam from getting into your inbox. And when you hover your cursor over the link, does it really go to a trusted website? In this fake SSA email, when you hover over the url you’re told to click on, you see the link goes to an unrelated “.com” — instead of the Social Security Administration's ssa.gov or another “.gov” site.

If you get a questionable email, don’t click on any links, or open any attachments. Report it to the FTC by forwarding the email to spam@uce.gov — and to the organization impersonated in the email. You also can report it to your email provider. Some email providers let you mark messages as phishing scams. Your report is most effective when you include the full email header, but most email programs hide this information. To find out how to include it, type the name of your email service with “full email header” into your favorite search engine. When you’re done, delete the email.

If you’re unsure about an email that looks like it’s from the government, contact the agency directly.


Reporting International Scams  January 11, 2016

by Colleen Tressler
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve heard us say repeatedly to report scams to the FTC. If you report scams to the Federal Trade Commission, they can bring the kinds of cases that shut down the scammers.

But there’s another place to report international scams, too: econsumer.gov. Maybe you’ve done business with an overseas company that hasn’t lived up to its end of the deal. Perhaps you got “winning” lottery notices from another country, or got asked to send money overseas to secure your international job. If you’ve spotted a scam that crosses international borders, you can file a report at econsumer.gov.                                                    

The site is run by the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), and is a partnership of 34 consumer protection agencies around the world. The site is mobile-friendly, has a user-friendly complaint form, and you can get consumer information and file complaints in English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Spanish, and Turkish.

Whether you use a smart phone, tablet or other mobile device, your complaints to econsumer.gov help consumer protection agencies around the globe – including the FTC – spot trends, conduct investigations, bring cases and prevent international scams. You also can learn practical steps to help combat fraud and get news from ICPEN members, including case announcements.



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