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Current Scams


Pass it on: tech support scams

July 17, 2017
by  Jennifer Leach
 

Assistant Director, Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC

Earlier today, we announced a bunch of cases against tech support scammers: the people who act like there’s a problem with your computer and then try to convince you to fork over money to fix – ahem – “fix” it. Except there never was a problem, and they weren’t really from tech support.

Many of us have gotten those calls. Some of us have seen what looks like a pop-up on our computer screen. People I know – and maybe some that you know – have been convinced enough to talk with the scammers. That’s why the FTC, our partners at the Florida Attorney General’s office, and other law enforcement are trying to stop these scammers in their tracks.

So, what can you do? Well, now that you know how to spot the scam, you can pass that knowledge on. Tell people about it. And, if you’re on social media, share this post – and this quick video. (It shares better from this link.) It shows what happens in a tech support scam – and what you can do about it. And thanks!

Click here to view video.



Scams in the name of charity


July 3, 2017
by  Lisa Lake 

Consumer Education Specialist, FTC


Scammers are creative, cunning and cruel — and they often mix in a little truth to spice up their big lies. This scheme shows just how low they can go.

Government imposters claiming to be with the FTC, or another agency like the fictitious “Consumer Protection Agency,” are calling to inform people they have won a huge sweepstakes from the Make-a-Wish Foundation, a well-known charity for very sick children. To get the money, the callers say, the “winner” must first pay thousands of dollars to cover taxes or insurance on the prize. The call may even come from a 202 (Washington, DC) area code to appear credible — since the headquarters for the FTC and most federal agencies are in DC.


This is just a scheme using the well-known names of Make-a-Wish and the FTC to rob thousands of dollars from people. Once you wire money or send banking information, you will never see your money again.


Here are a few facts and tips to protect yourself and others:

•  If someone asks you to wire money or provide your bank account information over the telephone, it’s a scam.
•  Anytime you have to pay to get a prize, it’s a scam.
•  The FTC doesn’t oversee sweepstakes and no FTC staff is involved in giving out sweepstakes prizes. We do, however, go after sweepstakes scams like this one.
•  If an FTC case results in refunds, you can find the details at ftc.gov/redress.
•  The Make-a-Wish Foundation has information about this specific scam on its fraud alerts page.
•  If you encounter this or other scams, report it to the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP or ftc.gov/complaint.
•  Talk to your friends and family about scams. Visit FTC.gov/PassItOn to find out how.





New Medicare Cards are on the Way

June 19, 2017
by  Andrew Johnson 

Consumer Education Specialist, FTC


Changes are coming to your Medicare card. By April 2019, your card will be replaced with one that no longer shows your Social Security number. Instead, your card will have a new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) that will be used for billing and for checking your eligibility and claim status. And it will all happen automatically – you won’t have to pay anyone or give anyone information, no matter what someone might tell you.

Having your Social Security number removed from your Medicare card helps fight medical identity theft and protect your medical and financial information. But even with these changes, scammers will still look for ways to take what doesn’t belong to them. Here are some ways to avoid Medicare scams:

•  Is someone calling, claiming to be from Medicare, and asking for your Social Security number or bank information? Hang up. That’s a scam. First, Medicare won’t call you. Second, Medicare will never ask for your Social Security number or bank information.
•  Is someone asking you to pay for your new card? That’s a scam. Your new Medicare card is free.
•  Is someone threatening to cancel your benefits if you don’t give up information or money? Also a scam. New Medicare cards will be mailed out to you automatically. There won’t be any changes to your benefits.

View video on how Fraud affects every community





Protect Your Digital Identity
June 5, 2017

Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission you can take to protect your digital identity:


Smart Phone:

• Lock your phone. Use at least a 6-digit passcode on your device, or use the pattern lock or fingerprint scanner. Set the device to lock when not in use. This is especially important if you use a mobile wallet or money transfer apps.

• Update it and back it up. Back up your device regularly and make sure automatic updates are turned on. Backing up your phone regularly and automatically makes sure that you’ll still have your stuff – if it disappears.

• Get help finding your phone. Install and turn on Find My iPhone (iOS) or Find My Device (Android). These apps could help you locate your device if you lose it. If your phone is stolen, these apps also let you remotely issue a command to erase your device – even if a thief turns it off.

• Alert your wireless provider if your phone is missing. Make the call as soon as you know your device is missing. They can permanently or temporarily disable the SIM card to stop someone from using the device for calls or the internet. It helps, too, if you have a record of your phone’s serial number or IMEI number (a unique identifier for your phone).


Accounts:
• Know which devices have access to your accounts. Many social media sites and email providers, and some phone operating systems, let you view the logins for your devices from the settings menu. You can remove devices from the account, and log out of the site remotely using a computer or another device. That’s handy if ever you lose your phone, tablet, or laptop.

• Check your log-in and account notifications. Many email and social media accounts can notify you if a new device connects to your account, or if someone tried to change your passwords.

• When in doubt, change your passwords. If you’ve lost your device, change your passwords.

Many of us set our devices to remember passwords – which could mean that someone who gets your phone could get access to your accounts and personal information. So: if you lose your phone, change your email, social media, online banking, shopping, and other passwords right away.


Remember, if you use Mobile Banking with Central Maine Credit Union, our Terms and Conditions require that your device (phone) be password protected.






Corporate Check Fraud


May 22, 2017


Several Maine credit unions have recently detected fraud involving their corporate checks.  In at least one of these instances, the fraud has been linked to a scam where a consumer receives a letter stating they have been selected as a mystery shopper for several different money transfer locations. Included with the letter is a corporate check that is to be cashed or deposited and used for the mystery shopping task assigned in the letter. 

Once this task has been completed, the recipient is instructed to go to their financial institution to obtain a corporate check, take a close range picture of the check and email this image to an address provided in the letter.  Once this task has been completed, they are provided instructions on how to send the funds from the corporate check they received with the letter via the money transfer merchant location.  The instructions state that the person they are sending the funds to is an undercover surveyor who would also like feedback regarding the money transfer experience.
 
It is believed that the information transmitted via the photo of the check image is then used to create fraudulent corporate checks that include all of the information from the legitimate check including a replicated signature of the employee who authorized the issuance of the document. The perpetrator then generates check numbers based on the number assigned to the check within the image.


If you receive a letter stating that you have been selected as a mystery shopper with a corporate check from your credit union or financial institution for you to cash- do not get taken by this offer. THIS IS A SCAM! Be wise- be safe. Report or turn the letter and check in to your financial institution or the local authorities. We have the means to determine if the check is fraudulent.





Who's really calling?


May 8, 2017
by  Monica Vaca 
Acting Associate Director, FTC

The millions of people who reported scams last year told us that imposters were the top fraud of the year. Imposters have called many of us – maybe even most of us, pretending to be anyone from the IRS to a family member in trouble, from fake tech “help” for your computer to a business selling things that turned out to be bogus. Their goal? To get your money as quickly as possible.

Of course, scammers can make caller ID show any number – even the name that shows up on the display. So don’t rely on caller ID to help you decide if a call is legit. Imposters can pretend to be anyone, but the twist on this imposter scam is that the scammers are pretending to be from well-respected community service organizations and appealing to your civic spirit.

To make sure your donation dollars are doing the good you want them to, learn more about giving wisely. If you get a dubious call, or one that pressures you to donate right away, tell the FTC so we can investigate. We rely on you – and our partners in your community – to tell us what you’re seeing. In fact, our most recent imposter scam case – against a company that pretended to be from a community help center, the government, radio stations, and companies like Walmart – came about because of a tip from a legal services group in Washington, DC. So every report, from everyone, makes a difference.





"I have an emergency and need money"

April 24, 2017
by  Jennifer Leach 
Assistant Director, Division of Consumer and Business Education

If you’ve ever gotten one of those calls, you know how alarming they can be. And that’s exactly what the scammers count on. They want you to act before you think – and acting always includes sending them money: by wiring it or by getting a prepaid card or gift card, and giving them the numbers on the card. Either way, your money’s gone.

Here’s the story of Pablo Colón from Bridgeport, Connecticut, and his family. When both his sister and his father got a call about a family “emergency,” Pablo spotted the scam. And, luckily for the good people of Bridgeport, Pablo’s family owns a radio station – so he put the story on the air and warned his community.

Talking about a scam is important – even if only one person is listening, instead of the thousands who heard Pablo’s story. So watch this video. And then pass it on. Today, tell someone about this scam, about Pablo’s story, about why we should all talk about the scams we see. And, whenever you spot a scam, please tell the FTC.

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/i-have-emergency-and-need-money





Don’t let utility scams overpower you

April 10, 2017
by  Lisa Lake
 

Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

When your electricity goes out, you lose power in more ways than one. Daily necessities are out of reach without lights, warm water, and heat or air conditioning.

So if you get a call from someone threatening to shut off your utilities because they say you owe money, you’re going pay attention – and you may even pay up. But not so fast. The caller might be an imposter running a utility scam.

How can you tell? The caller wants you to send money – quickly, and in a very specific way. He may say the only way to make the “payment” is by wiring the money or using a prepaid card. That’s because scammers want your money quick, and they want to stay hidden. But once you wire money or use a prepaid card, your money is gone for good.

Here are a few ways to protect yourself and your community:

• Make sure you’re really dealing with your utility company. Call the company using the number on your bill. You can also check your bill to confirm what you owe.
• Never wire money or send the number from a prepaid card to someone you don’t know — regardless of the situation. Once you do, you cannot get your money back.
• Contact the company if you are falling behind on your utility bill. See if you can work out a payment plan to catch up and keep your service on.
• Pass on information about imposter scams to people you know – and keep in touch with the latest scams by signing up for the FTC’s scam alerts.
• Report it to the FTC if you think a scammer has contacted you.
 



Don't bank on that check

March 27, 2017
by  Lisa Lake 

Consumer Education Specialist, FTC


Scammers know how to design phony checks to make them look legitimate. In fact, the Council of Better Business Bureaus just released a list of the most “risky” scams, based on how likely people are to be targeted, how likely to lose money, and how much money they lost. Fake checks were number two.

Fake checks drive many types of scams – like those involving phony prize wins, fake jobs, mystery shoppers, online classified ad sales, and others. In a fake check scam, someone asks you to deposit a check – sometimes for several thousand dollars – and, when the funds seem to be available, wire the money to a third party. The scammers always have a good story to explain the overpayment – they’re stuck out of the country, they need you to cover taxes or fees, you’ll need to buy supplies, or something else. But when the financial institution discovers you’ve deposited a bad check, the scammer already has the money, and you’re stuck paying the money back to the bank or credit union.

So don’t deposit a check and wire money or send money back in any way. Financial institutions must make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take them weeks. If a check you deposit bounces – even after it seemed to clear – you’re responsible for repaying the bank or credit union. Money orders and cashier’s checks can be counterfeited, too.

Want to avoid the latest rip-offs? Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC at ftc.gov/scams.





Government imposters want to get to know you

March 13, 2017
by  Lisa Lake 
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC


The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the FTC want you to know about a scam in which callers posing as federal employees are trying to get or verify personal information. This is a government imposter scam.


Sometimes, the caller asks you to verify your name, and then just hangs up. Other times, he or she might ask for detailed information — like the last digits of your Social Security or bank account number. Imposters might say they need this information to help you or a family member. But their real reason is to steal from you or sell your information to other crooks.

Your caller ID might even read “HHS Tips” or “Federal Government” when they call. The phone number could have the “202” Washington, DC area code, the headquarters for many federal agencies. The phone number may even be for a real government agency. But don’t be fooled: Scammers know how to rig their caller IDs to show false information.

So how can you tell the caller is an imposter?
• The federal government typically will contact you by U.S. Mail first, not by phone or email.
• Federal agencies will not demand personal information like your Social Security Number or bank account number over the phone. Also, just because the caller knows details about you, doesn’t mean she is trustworthy.
• The caller typically asks you to send money – often via wire transfer, by using a prepaid debit card, or maybe by sending you a fake check to cash. Federal agencies will not ask you to use any of these methods to send money for any reason.

…and what should you do?
• Hang up. Do not give out any personal or financial information.
• Contact the Department of Health and Human Services OIG at 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477) or
spoof@oig.hhs.gov
• File a complaint with the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint or 877-FTC-HELP.
• Learn more about government imposter scams and sign up for the FTC’s Scam Alerts.




Scammers are spoofing news sites to promote health products

February 27, 2017
by  Andrew Johnson 
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC


Scammers will do just about anything to rip you off. They will create fake websites, use fake endorsements from public figures, lie about the effectiveness of their products, and much more.
The FTC did some investigating and found that a number of shady companies selling “brain booster” pills are using these exact tactics to promote their products. Here’s how:

They build spoofed websites that look like the news sites that we know and trust. The sites aren’t real news sites and the endorsements featured on the sites, often from figures like Stephen Hawking, Anderson Cooper and others, are fake. Representatives from Hawking and Cooper have confirmed that neither has endorsed any “brain booster” products.

The spoofed news sites link you to the sales page for the product, which allows you to place an order with a credit or debit card. The scammers may claim that the pills are proven to work — that you’ll experience an increase in concentration and memory recall by large percentages, but they lack evidence to support their claims. It’s a scam.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) advises that you talk to your doctor to get the facts about health products before purchasing.

If you already paid money to a scammer with a credit or debit card, you may still be able to get your money back.

• Call the card company immediately using the phone number found on your monthly statement
• Alert them to the fraudulent charge right away
• Ask if you are still eligible to get your money back
• Ask if you should get a new card with a new number to prevent more fraudulent charges

For more tips, stay connected by subscribing to FTC alerts. And report scams to the FTC.





Treat as Urgent Scam


Central Maine Credit Union
February 13, 2017

If you receive this or similar emails addressed in your name, please DELETE!

Dear (Name),

My name is Mr. Thomas Gabrosh. I trained and currently work as an external auditor for the Office of Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), Vancouver, Canada, working as part of a large team that covers the entire Canadian region. I have taken my time to contact you through my personal endeavors. The OSFI are responsible for ensuring that dormant accounts, policy holders, depositors and pension plan members are protected from undue loss of their investments. We aim to safeguard our members from any financial loss that may occur.

During a routine audit check on accounts which were discovered during the liquidation of a Canadian bank, I discovered a fixed deposit account which is presently dormant. This account has been dormant for the last twenty five (25) years. The deposit belongs to a single holder with a total amount slightly above $21.5 Million United States Dollars.  Banking regulation/legislation in Canada demand that I notify the institute responsibly for an unclaimed asset after a statutory time period of years when dormant accounts of this type are discovered. The above set of facts underscores my reason of writing to you and making the following proposal.

My investigations of the said account reveals that the investor died in
1991 - the exact time the account was last operated. The Canadian bank where the account was originally open has been officially liquidated since 1993.  I can confirm with certainty that the said investor died intestate and no next-of-kin to his estate has been found or has come forward all these years. I am of the settled conviction that using my insider leverage, working with you can secure the funds in the account for us instead of allowing it to pass as an unclaimed fund into the coffers of the Canadian Government. This is especially possible as you bear the matching LAST NAME and the same NATIONALITY to the said investor, and can stand as his extended relative. This is exactly why I am contacting you.

I have all relevant documents (Legal and Banking) that will facilitate my putting you forward as the claimant/beneficiary of the funds and ultimately transfer the money to an account nominated by you. If necessary, we can easily open a new account in your name for this purpose.
If you agree to co-operate with me, we will agree unquestionably on adequate compensation for you after we successfully obtain the inheritance payment.
I will explain in more detail what this transaction consists of and what the necessary requirements are, but only when I receive confirmation of your desire to participate.  Be assured that I am completely committed to the situation. There will be no risk involved whatsoever if you agree to co-operate. However MAXIMUM PRIVACY is of vital importance if we are to successfully reap the immense benefits of this transaction. I guarantee that the transaction will be executed under legitimate arrangement that all parties involved will be protected from any breach of law.

To confirm your willingness and co-operation to my proposal, please contact me through fax or email stating the following: (1) Full Name and Occupation (2) Mobile, Direct Telephone Number (3) Direct Fax Number. (4) Contact Address.

Your prompt response will be highly appreciated.

Kind Regards,
Mr. Thomas Gabrosh.





Beware new "can you hear me" scam

January 30, 2017

It’s not a Verizon commercial: If you receive a phone call from someone asking “can you hear me,” hang up. You’re a potential victim in the latest scam circulating around the U.S.

The “can you hear me” con is actually a variation on earlier scams aimed at getting the victim to say the word “yes” in a phone conversation. That affirmative response is recorded by the fraudster and used to authorize unwanted charges on a phone or utility bill or on a purloined credit card.
 “You say ‘yes,’ it gets recorded and they say that you have agreed to something,” said Susan Grant, director of consumer protection for the Consumer Federation of America. “I know that people think it’s impolite to hang up, but it’s a good strategy.”

But how can you get charged if you don’t provide a payment method? The con artist already has your phone number, and many phone providers pass through third-party charges. In addition, the criminal may have already collected some of your personal information -- a credit card number or cable bill, perhaps -- as the result of a data breach. When the victim disputes the charge, the crook can then counter that he or she has your assent on a recorded line. 

What can you do? If you suspect you have already been victimized, check your credit card, phone and cable statements carefully for any unfamiliar charges. Call the billing company -- whether your credit card company or your phone provider -- and dispute anything that you didn’t authorize on purpose. If they say you have been recorded approving the charge and you have no recollection of that, ask for proof.

If you need help disputing an unauthorized credit card charge, contact the Federal Trade Commission. If the charge hit your phone bill, the Federal Communications Commission regulates phone bill “cramming.”

If you have not yet been victimized, the best way to avoid telemarketing calls from con artists is to sign up for a free blocking service, such as Nomorobo, or simply let calls from unfamiliar numbers go to your answering machine. Scammers rarely leave a message.

If you do answer a call from an unfamiliar number, be skeptical of strangers asking questions that would normally elicit a “yes” response. The question doesn’t have to be “can you hear me?” It could be “are you the lady of the house?”; “do you pay the household telephone bills?”; “are you the homeowner?”; or any number of similar yes/no questions. A reasonable response to any of these questions is: “Who are you, and why do you want to know?”

If the caller maintains they are with a government agency -- Social Security, the IRS, the Department of Motor Vehicles or the court system -- hang up immediately. Government officials communicate by mail, not phone (unless you initiate the call). Many con artists use the aegis of authority to convince you to keep talking. The longer you talk, the more likely you are to say something that will allow them to make you a victim.




Police raids in India cut down IRS imposter calls

January 17, 2017
by Nat Wood 

Associate Director, Consumer & Business Education, FTC


Over the last few years, we’ve warned about a lot of imposter scams. In one of the most common types, callers pretending to be from the IRS demand payments and threaten to arrest people.

Last fall, we mentioned raids on illegal telemarketing operations by the police in India. After that, the US Department of Justice indicted dozens of scammers who also were impersonating the IRS. After those actions, the number of IRS imposter scams reported to the FTC plummeted. On Tuesday, the New York Times ran a behind-the-scenes look at the call centers and the raids that took them down. It’s a great reminder that scammers are organized, and they’re really good liars.

Here are four things that can help you avoid telephone scammers:

1.The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment, nor will the IRS call about taxes you owe without first mailing you a bill. If you get a live or pre-recorded call claiming to be from the IRS and demanding payment right away, hang up. If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, you can call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040 to explore your options.

2.Don’t trust your caller ID. Scammers can make caller ID look like anyone is calling: the IRS, a business or government office…even your own phone number. If they tell you to pay money for any reason, or ask for your financial account numbers, hang up.  If you think the caller might be legitimate, call back to a number you know is genuine – not the number the caller gave you.

3.Hang up on robocalls. If you pick up the phone and hear a recorded sales pitch, hang up and report it to the FTC. These calls are illegal.

4.Talk to someone. Before you give up money or information, talk to someone you trust. Scammers want you to make decisions in a hurry. Slow down, check out the story, search online – or just tell a friend.




There’s an app for that (but it might be fake)

January 3, 2017
by  Ari Lazarus
 
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC



As more and more consumers are shopping with mobile apps, fraudsters are following the money. There are fake phone apps popping up that impersonate well-known retailers in order to steal your personal information. Their names are similar to well-known brands, and their descriptions promise enticing deals or features.

But these fraudulent apps can take your credit card or bank information. Some fake apps may even install malware onto your phone and demand money from you to unlock it.
Here are some tips to avoid downloading fraudulent apps:

•Not sure if a shopping app is legit? Go directly to the retailer’s website and see if they promote it. If they do have an app, they will direct you to the app store where you can download it.


•On the web, you can search a brand name, plus “fake app” to see if the company has reported its brand being spoofed.


•Look for reviews of the app before you download – both in the app stores and on the web. If the app has no reviews, it was likely created recently, and could be a fake. Real apps for big retailers often have thousands of reviews.


•Don’t download apps with misspelled words in their description. Many fake apps were created in a hurry. On the other hand, some fake apps look almost like the real thing.

If you’re using apps for shopping, keep records of your transactions. Screenshot or save the product description and price, the online receipt, and the emails you send and receive from the seller.


Monitor your credit card statements frequently; be on the lookout for charges that you don’t recognize.







Here’s what snow days are great for 
December 19, 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.




Don’t let scammers take away your holiday cheer
December 5, 2016
by  Amy Hebert 

Consumer Education Specialist, FTC


You’ve got meals to plan and gifts to buy. The last thing you need is to lose money to a scam. Here are three ways to avoid giving your hard-earned money to a scammer this holiday season.

Know how NOT to pay.

Is someone asking you to pay with an iTunes or Amazon gift card? Or telling you to wire money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram? Don’t do it. Scammers ask you to pay in ways that let them get the money fast — and make it nearly impossible for you to get it back. If you’re doing any holiday shopping online, know that credit cards have a lot of fraud protection built in.

Spot imposters.

Imposters pretend to be someone you trust to convince you to send money or personal information. They might say you qualified for a free government grant, but you have to pay a fee to get it. Or they might send phishing emails that seem to be from your bank asking you to “verify” your credit card or checking account number. Don’t buy it. Learn more about spotting imposter scams.

Make sure your money goes to real charities.

As a reformed Ebenezer Scrooge shows us year after year, the holidays are an important time to share with people in need. Unfortunately, sometimes charity scammers try to take advantage of your good will. And even when you’re dealing with legitimate charities, it’s still important to make sure a charity will spend your donation the way you want it to. Always check out a charity before you give.

Want a bonus tip? Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC at ftc.gov/scams, and read 10 Things You Can Do to Avoid Fraud.

If you spot a scam, report it at ftc.gov/complaint. Your reports help the FTC and other law enforcement investigate scams and bring the people behind them to justice.





IRS warns of a new tax bill scam
November 21, 2016
by  Seena Gressin 

Attorney, Division of Consumer & Business Education, FTC

We certainly understand if the latest IRS imposter scam makes you queasy: it involves a fake IRS tax notice that claims you owe money as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
The IRS says the fake notices are designed to look like real IRS CP2000 notices, which the agency sends if information it receives about your income doesn’t match the information reported on your tax return. The IRS says many people have gotten the bogus notices, which usually claim you owe money for the previous tax year under the Affordable Care Act.
It’s one of many IRS imposter scams that have popped up. As tax season nears, we’ll see more. The good news? There are red-flag warnings that can help you avoid becoming a victim. For example, the IRS will never:

• Initiate contact with you by email or through social media.
• Ask you to pay using a gift card, pre-paid debit card, or wire transfer.
• Request personal or financial information by email, texts, or social media.
• Threaten to immediately have you arrested or deported for not paying.

In the new scam, the fake CP2000 notices often arrive as an attachment to an email — a red-flag — or by U.S. mail. Other telltale signs of this fraud:

• There may be a “payment” link within the email. Scam emails can link you to sites that steal your personal information, take your money, or infect your computer with malware. Don’t click on the link.
• The notices request that a check be made out to “I.R.S.” Real CP2000s ask taxpayers to make their checks out to “United States Treasury” if they agree they owe taxes.

In the version we saw, a payment voucher refers to letter number LTR0105C, and requests that checks be sent to the “Austin Processing Center” in Texas. But scammers are crafty. They could send messages with a variety of return addresses.

You can see an image of a real CP2000 notice on the IRS web page, Understanding Your CP2000 Notice. If you get a scam IRS notice, forward it to phishing@irs.gov and then delete it from your email account. Let the FTC know too.

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/irs-warns-new-tax-bill-scam






Money-making scheme targets older people and veterans


November 7, 2016
by  Amy Hebert 

Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

If you’re just getting by, and someone offers you the chance to earn more money through a business opportunity, you might be willing to listen, right?

Unfortunately, those offers often turn out to be just another scam. Today the FTC announced charges against three people and multiple companies behind a telemarketing scheme that targeted older people and veterans, and took millions of dollars from people with promises they would multiply their investment.

Here’s how it played out: Doing business under names like “Titan Income,” “Wyze Money,” “Prime Cash,” and “Building Money,” telemarketers called people about an “opportunity” to participate or invest in e-commerce websites. The callers said people would earn a hefty income sharing in the revenue from the sites. They even said it was “risk-free” and promised a 100% money-back guarantee.

For a few months, the scammers made it seem like everything was going according to plan as people awaited their first earnings payment at the end of the quarter. During that time, some people who initially paid hundreds of dollars were convinced to pay thousands of dollars more to increase their return. The company even helped people move their now-huge credit card balances to new accounts with temporarily low or zero-interest balance transfers.
But it was all a lie. As soon as it was time for people to get paid, all contact stopped. There were no e-commerce earnings or investments. Anyone trying to get a refund of their investment was out of luck. Many people lost as much as $20,000.

If you’re considering putting money into a business opportunity, do some research first. By law, business opportunity promoters must give you certain information before you hand over any money.

Many of the people Building Money called were on the Do Not Call Registry. If a company is ignoring the Registry, there’s a good chance it’s a scam. If you get calls like these, hang up and file a complaint with the FTC.





5 Ways to Thwart Identity Theft


October 24, 2016
by John Pettit, CUInsight.com

As a lot of us have had to find out the hard way, identity theft is a real threat and it can be damaging to your finances and personal life. Make sure you’re doing all you can to keep yourself safe. Here are 5 things you can do to stay protected.

Have secure passwords
Stop using the word ‘password’ as your password. People actually do this. And don’t use your mother’s maiden name. It’s time to get sneaky. Create a complex password that only you can remember. For instance, maybe you’re a big Alabama football fan. I’m not sure why you would be, but that’s a conversation for another day. Make a phrase like, “I think Alabama will win another National Championship in 2018! Then use the initials, symbols, and numbers from that phrase to create your password. That would look like this: ItAwwaNCi2018! Nobody’s going to guess that one. According to howsecureismypassword.net, it would take a computer 204 million years to crack that password.

Shred sensitive information
Your weekly routine probably involves dragging your trash can out to the street on trash day. Make sure when this happens, you’re not throwing anything away that an identity thief could find valuable. Anything that contains account numbers, banking information, or social security numbers would be gold for a thief. Get online, buy a paper shredder and put it to work. This is the easiest way to help yourself stay protected.

Check your credit report
If checking your credit report isn’t something you do regularly, you should make it one. If a thief opens up an account in your name, this will affect your credit score and that can be an easy red flag to detect. Although it used to be a hassle, there are a few sites that provide free credit reports these days. If you need a suggestion, check out Credit Karma. I’ve been using this service for a while and I’ve been super pleased.

Be careful with the internet
Cybercriminals can get your information a few ways, one of witch is phishing. Phishing is when a cybercriminal defrauds you of sensitive information by posing as a legitimate company that you trust. Make sure you never click a link in an email that’s asking you for personal information. You’ll never get an email like this if you didn’t request it, and even then, contact the company and have it verified. Also, make sure you’re not doing sensitive things like logging into your bank website from a coffee house’s wifi. Feel free to write articles like this one from a coffee house, but make wait until you get home to check your account balance.

Monitor your accounts
My online banking got hacked once. Fortunately, because I login quite often, I noticed a pending transaction that I wasn’t aware of. Because I caught it in the pending phase, I was able to cancel it and save myself the headache of having to get my money back. I still closed the account and opened a new one, but it showed me the importance of regularly looking at my accounts and keeping a close eye on my money.



Scam-proof Your Doorstep

October 10, 2016
by  Lisa Lake 
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

Nowadays, you can encounter a scam artist just about anywhere — online, over the phone and even at your door. Here are a few ruses that might come a’ knocking, and tips to avoid getting taken:

Home repair scams
Someone offers to do yardwork or make repairs in or around your home. You want to save money and really need the work done so you give it a shot. He or she takes a cash payment from you upfront… and never returns.

Cable reconnect scams
Money’s been tight and your cable is off due to nonpayment. A flyer says you can get your cable reconnected for an unbelievably low price. You make an appointment, pay, and your cable may even reconnect — provided the scammers don’t skip off with your money first.

But will your cable stay on? Probably not. And is this even legal? Absolutely not. Once the cable company catches on, you’re cable-less again, out of the money you paid, and you’re probably in trouble with the company and law enforcement to boot.

Utility cut-on scams
There’s a power outage. Someone claiming to be with your utility company offers to reconnect your service for, say, $50. You pay. You wait. Hours later you’re still in the dark and out of money. A scam artist has run off with your money.

Protect your money, property and personal safety by following a few tips:

• Don’t let anyone come into your home unless you have a prescheduled appointment. You have the right to refuse to open your own door.

• Don’t pay cash to anyone who comes to your home claiming to be with a utility company or other service provider.

• Confirm any special offers with your service provider — using the number on your bill or their website. Also, be suspicious of a promotional flyer offering service from multiple providers. Competitors don’t typically advertise together.

• If you’re struggling with your bill, most providers can make payment arrangements to restore your service legitimately.
If anyone promises a service, takes your money and doesn’t deliver, file a complaint with the FTC and your state consumer protection agency.






A False Appeal to Your Sense of Charity

September 26, 2016
by Aditi Jhaveri
 

Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

 
If you get a call asking you to give to a charity, you might be tempted to say yes without a second thought. But as with any call you get from someone asking for money out of the blue, pause and do some research to avoid fraudsters who try to take advantage of your generosity.
Unfortunately, there are for-profit companies — like American Handicapped and Disadvantaged Workers, Inc. (AHDW) — that pretend to be charitable organizations and lie about how they use donations. The FTC sued AHDW for deceiving people.

Here’s the story: AHDW’s telemarketers called and asked people to donate — either by giving money or buying overpriced household products from them. These telemarketers, often falsely claiming to be disabled themselves, implied that most of the money raised would be used to pay wages to disabled employees at the company. And as a bonus, people were told they’d get a free gift in the mail for donating.


In reality, most of the telemarketers weren’t disabled, and only a small portion of the company’s earnings were paid to AHDW’s few disabled employees. And those free gifts people got in the mail? They came with invoices, followed by harassing calls demanding payment for products people never ordered.


If you get a call about buying overpriced products to support a charity:

• Do some research. Confirm an organization is really a charity before committing to spend extra money. That “charity” might be a for-profit company trying to trick you into overpaying for things you routinely buy. You can search for names on this list of tax-exempt organizations from the IRS, or check with the BBB or your state Attorney General.

• Don’t pay for unordered merchandise. You can keep any gifts you get in the mail from a charitable organization that asks for contributions. If you didn’t order it, you don’t have to pay for it — even if someone sends a bill or calls you saying otherwise.

It’s legal for charities to call and ask for donations, even if your number is on the Do Not Call Registry. But it’s against the law for telemarketers to imply they’re from a charitable organization when they’re not.





Another IRS Imposter Voicemail


September 12, 2016
by  Andrew Johnson 

You get a call or voicemail from someone claiming to be from the IRS. You’re being sued and this your final notice. Don’t panic. And don’t return the call. It’s a scam.

Here are a few facts about the IRS to keep in mind if you get a similar call:

•If the IRS needs to contact you, they’ll do it by mail first.
•The IRS won’t demand personal information like credit card or Social Security numbers over the phone.
•The IRS won’t threaten to arrest or sue you, or demand that you pay right away. The IRS also won’t tell you to use a specific form of payment like a money transfer from MoneyGram or Western Union, a cash reload from MoneyPak or Reloadit, or a gift card from iTunes or Amazon. Scammers ask you to use those ways to pay because they’re hard to track or cancel payments.

If you or someone you know receives a call like this, report it the FTC and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). Include the caller’s phone number, along with any details you have. If you’re not sure whether a call is really from the IRS, you can double-check by calling the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040.
For more, check out this IRS imposter scams infographic. Share with friends and family. They may get the call next.



Free Trial Scams   August 29, 2016



by Bridget Small               
Consumer Education Specialist
          
If you’re looking for government grants or ways to make money, the FTC has tips to help you avoid getting ripped off. If you signed up for a free — or low cost — trial, and were charged more than you agreed to, please report it to the FTC.

Free Trials Can Cost You




And They Called It Puppy Love…

August 15, 2016
by  Cristina Miranda 
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

The big bright eyes, the wet little nose, the soft fur fringed around a face you want to cuddle and coo. You’ve fallen in love with a picture of the cutest puppy  after responding to an ad that says “free to a loving home.”
The person who sent you the picture online promises 24-hour delivery of your pooch to the nearest airport — as soon as you wire money to pay for shipping costs.

But this kind of puppy love can lead to heartbreak. A scam artist is behind that cute picture — and the request to wire money. One request for money leads to another — for transport, shots or papers — but you never get the puppy.

Before you pay for a puppy — or any other pet — online, here are some tips:


• Don’t wire money. The surest sign of a scam is when someone insists you wire them money as the only form of payment for a pet. Wiring money is the same as sending cash — once you send it, you can’t get it back.

• Do your research. Ask for detailed information about the person selling the pet. What is the person’s full name, phone number and mail address? Do complaints or the word “scam” pop up when you research them online?

• Don’t buy a puppy or do business with someone you haven’t met in person. If you try to arrange meetings to see the puppy, and the person makes excuses, it could be a red flag.

• Consider adoption from a local animal shelter. Purebred dogs (and other pets) of all ages abound in shelters across the U.S. waiting for loving homes. Most can be adopted for a small fee.

The “puppy scam” has been run with other pets – parrots, kittens, even iguanas. If you’ve spotted a puppy scam, or any scam related to buying pets online, file a complaint with the FTC, or contact your State Attorney General.





You Can’t Win

August 1, 2016
by  Amy Hebert 
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

Is it your lucky day? If you’ve gotten a call or letter saying you’ve won a big cash prize, and just need to pay a small fee to claim it, maybe not.

The FTC has announced a case against an operation that allegedly sent millions of personalized, professional-looking letters to people saying a cash prize of more than $2 million was reserved, “guaranteed and deliverable,” just for them. All the “winners” had to do was return a form with a $20 or $30 acceptance or registration fee. The letters targeted older people in the U.S., Canada, the UK, and dozens of other countries; altogether, the scam took in more than $9 million from its victims.

But there was no prize, the FTC says. In fact, the hard-to-see fine print said the company doesn’t sponsor sweepstakes or award prizes at all, and is instead in the business of compiling a report of available sweepstakes. But there’s no evidence that people who paid got even that.

Still hoping for your golden ticket? There’s no need to give up sweepstakes altogether. Here’s what you should you know to avoid a prize scam:

You shouldn’t have to pay.
Legitimate sweepstakes won’t make you pay money or buy something to enter or improve your chances of winning. That includes paying "taxes" or "shipping and handling charges" to claim a prize.

The prizes aren’t so great

If you do pay to redeem a prize, you’ll find it isn’t worth much or the "vacation" is anything but luxurious. You may end up paying far more than the prize is worth, if you get a prize at all.

Many prize promoters sell the information they collect to advertisers.
When you sign up for a contest or drawing at a store, a mall, or another public place or event, instead of a prize, you could get more promotions in the mail, more telemarketing calls, and more spam email. So even if it takes a magnifying glass, read the fine print. That’s often where promoters hide the details about their business practices.




Scams, Too

July 18, 2016
by  Lisa Lake 
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC


What’s worse than losing money to a scammer? Losing more money to another scammer claiming to help you recover from the first one.

Yep, this really happens. It works like this: Con artists contact you because you’re on their lists of people who lost money to scams. For a “small fee” or “donation” upfront, they promise to recover the money you lost from a prize scheme, bogus product offer, or some other scam.

Sometimes, they try to get you to contact them by putting their offers of “help” in the comments section of blog posts or online articles about scams. Some crooks claim to be from a government agency to appear trustworthy. Others pretend to be actual victims who got (supposed) help from some (fake) agency or company.

But it’s all just a scam, too — another way for a scammer to profit from your loss. They’re after your money, and if you share your payment information, they’ve got it.

Here’s how you can avoid these recovery scams:

1.Don’t pay upfront for a promise. Someone might ask you to pay in advance for things – like help with recovering from a scam. Consider it a no-go if they ask you for money before they provide any “help”.

2.Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected text, phone call, or email. 

3.Do online searches. Type the name or contact information into your favorite search engine with the term “complaint” or “scam.”

4.Sign up for the FTC’s free scam alerts at ftc.gov/scams for the latest tips and advice about scams.

And if you find yourself scammed after being scammed, file a complaint with the FTC.

Fake Checks Can Cost You!



Refunds for Kevin Trudeau's victims

July 5, 2016
by  Andrew Johnson
 
Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC

Hundreds of thousands of people who bought Kevin Trudeau’s book “The Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About” after watching his deceptive infomercials will get money back, thanks to the FTC.

Kevin Trudeau’s run-ins with the FTC began back in the late 90’s when he agreed to settle an FTC charge that he hosted a series of deceptive infomercials designed to look like radio and TV news interviews. But Trudeau didn’t change his ways after the settlement. Instead, he claimed in a new infomercial – without any proof – that “Coral Calcium Supreme” could treat or cure cancer and other diseases.  In 2004, the FTC had him banned from infomercials. But Trudeau used a narrow exception in the ban to promote a new item: a book about a weight loss plan.

In the ads, Trudeau claimed that the weight loss plan outlined in the book was easy to follow, could be done at home, and allowed people to eat whatever they wanted. However, when people purchased the book, they discovered it described a complex plan that required near-starvation level dieting, daily injections of a prescription drug that consumers could not easily get, and lifelong restrictions on what people could eat.

In 2009, a federal judge ordered Trudeau to repay consumers millions of dollars for violating the 2004 court order. However, he claimed he was completely broke and couldn’t afford to repay consumers – although he lived in an expensive home and he spent lavishly on jewelry, cigars, and other luxury goods.  After more court proceedings, the FTC located millions of dollars Trudeau hid, and we continue to search for more.


As for the millions already found, it’s coming back to the people who paid for the book. If you get a check, deposit or cash it as soon as possible. You may receive more money in the future.  And as for Trudeau, his violations led to a 10-year prison sentence.

For more information about the refund process, visit ftc.gov/trudeau.
If you have questions about your refund, contact the FTC’s refund administrator at 844-828-4437. And remember, the FTC never requires you to pay money or give financial information to get a refund check.




Scammers say "Help Wanted"


June 20, 2016
by  Bridget Small 

Consumer Education Specialist, FTC


Criminals don’t like getting caught. So, when they want to send and receive stolen money, they get someone else to do the dirty work. Some scammers develop online relationships and ask their new sweetheart or friend to accept a deposit and transfer funds for them. Other cons recruit victims with job ads that seem like they’re for legit jobs, but they’re not. Law enforcement calls the victims ’money mules.’ If you get involved with one of these schemes, you could lose money and personal information, and you could get into legal trouble.

Scammers post ads for imaginary job openings for payment-processing agents, finance support clerks, mystery shoppers, interns, money transfer agents or administrative assistants. They search job sites, online classifieds and social media to hunt for potential money mules.  For example, if you post your resume on a job site, they might send you an email saying, ‘We saw your resume online and want to hire you.’ The ads often say:

• the company is outside the U.S.
• all work is done online
• you’ll get great pay for little work

If you respond, the scammer may interview you or send an online application. He does that to collect your personal information and make the job offer seem legitimate. At some point, the scammer will ask for your bank account number, or tell you to open a new account, and then send you instructions about transferring money.

If you think you’re involved with a money transfer scam:
• stop transferring money
• close your bank account
• notify your bank and the wire transfer service about the scam
• report it to the FTC

If you’re looking for work, check out the FTC’s tips about jobs and making money and warning signs of a job scam.

Federal Student Tax? No such thing.

June 6, 2016
by  Andrew Johnson 
Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC

Imposters posing as IRS agents are trying to trick college students into paying a “federal student tax” – a tax that doesn’t even exist.

Students from many colleges are telling the FTC that the calls go something like this: the so-called IRS agent tells you that you owe a “federal student tax,” and often has some piece of information that makes the call seem legit. Sometimes it’s the name of your school, or another piece of information about you. The caller demands that you wire money immediately, by MoneyGram or another untraceable method. And, if you don’t act quickly enough, the caller might threaten to report you to the police. If you hang up on the caller, they might make follow-up calls with spoofed caller-ID information. So, while caller ID might say it’s 911 or the U.S. Government calling, it’s not. It’s all fake.

If you get one of these calls, what do you do? Well, first, know this: No one from the IRS will ever ask you to wire money, or pay by sending iTunes gift cards or reloadable prepaid cards. That’s a scam, every time. In fact, the IRS will never contact you by phone first. If you owe money for an actual tax, the IRS will send a letter first. So, if you get one of these calls, hang up. Never wire money or give personal or financial information to one of these callers. Report the call to the FTC immediately.  And tell your friends at school. They might get the next call!


Scammers push people to pay with iTunes gift cards

May 23, 2016
by  Amy Hebert 
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

One thing we know about scammers — they want money, and they want it fast. That’s why, whatever the con they’re running, they usually ask people to pay a certain way. They want to make it easy for themselves to get the money — and nearly impossible for you to get it back.

Their latest method? iTunes gift cards. To convince you to pay, they might pretend to be with the IRS and say you’ll be arrested if you don’t pay back taxes right now. Or pose as a family member or online love interest who needs your help fast. But as soon as you put money on a card and share the code with them, the money’s gone for good.

If you’re not shopping at the iTunes store, you shouldn’t be paying with an iTunes gift card. Other payment methods scammers might ask for include Amazon gift cards, PayPal, reloadable cards like MoneyPak, Reloadit, or Vanilla, or by wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram. Government offices won’t require you to use these payment methods.

If you get targeted by a scam like this, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.


Scammers can fake Caller ID info
May 9, 2016
by  Andrew Johnson 

Your phone rings. You recognize the number, but when you pick up, it’s someone else. What’s the deal?

Scammers are using fake caller ID information to trick you into thinking they are someone local, someone you trust – like a government agency or police department, or a company you do business with – like your bank or cable provider. The practice is called caller ID spoofing, and scammers don’t care whose phone number they use. One scammer recently used the phone number of an FTC employee.

Don’t rely on caller ID to verify who’s calling. It can be nearly impossible to tell whether the caller ID information is real. Here are a few tips for handling these calls:

•  If you get a strange call from the government, hang up. If you want to check it out, visit the official (.gov) website for contact information. Government employees won’t call out of the blue to demand money or account information.

•  Don’t give out — or confirm — your personal or financial information to someone who calls.

•  Don’t wire money or send money using a reloadable card. In fact, never pay someone who calls out of the blue, even if the name or number on the caller ID looks legit.

• Feeling pressured to act immediately? Hang up. That’s a sure sign of a scam.



Scammers offering to help with disability applications
April 25, 2016
by  Andrew Johnson

Scammers are trying to get personal information from people by pretending to help with applications for disability benefits and claims. A recent alert from the Social Security Inspector General warns of this phishing scam, and — whether or not you’ve started an application for benefits — these scammers could contact you. They’re taking a shot in the dark, hoping that you have started an application, and hoping you’ll give them a little more info over the phone. To “complete the process,” they might ask you to give, or confirm, your Social Security number or bank account numbers.

If scammers get your information, you could face identity theft and benefit theft. So here are a few things you can do to help protect yourself:

•  Never give your Social Security number or account numbers to someone who
   calls you.
•  Don’t wire money or send money using a prepaid debit card. In fact, never pay
   someone who calls out of the blue.
•  If you have disability benefits, regularly check their status, and review your
   statements to make sure they’re right.
•  Pressured to provide your information? That’s a sure sign of a scam. Hang up
   immediately and report it to the Social Security Fraud Hotline and the FTC.

If you have questions about disability benefits, or get calls offering help with them, call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213.

Official-sounding calls about an email hack

April 11, 2016
by  Andrew Johnson 

Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC


There’s a new twist on tech-support scams — you know, the one where crooks try to get access to your computer or sensitive information by offering to “fix” a computer problem that doesn’t actually exist. Lately, we’ve heard reports that people are getting calls from someone claiming to be from the Global Privacy Enforcement Network. Their claim? That your email account has been hacked and is sending fraudulent messages. They say they’ll have to take legal action against you, unless you let them fix the problem right away.

If you raise questions, the scammers turn up the pressure – but they’ve also given out phone numbers of actual Federal Trade Commission staff (who have been surprised to get calls). The scammers also have sent people to the actual website for the Global Privacy Enforcement Network. (It’s a real thing: it’s an organization that helps governments work together on cross-border privacy cooperation.)

Here are few things to remember if you get any kind of tech-support call, no matter who they say they are:

• Don’t give control of your computer to anyone who calls you offering to “fix” your computer.
• Never give out or confirm your financial or sensitive information to anyone who contacts you.
• Getting pressure to act immediately? That’s a sure sign of a scam. Hang up.
• If you have concerns, contact your security software company directly. Use contact information you know is right, not what the caller gives you.



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.



Why care about Identity Theft?- March 7, 2016

Click on this link to view a short video about why you should care about Identity Theft





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.


 



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.

Phone Solicitation Alert!
It has come to our attention that potential fraudsters may be making phone calls to area consumers posing as Central Maine CU employees asking for verbal verification of personal information.