Frauds and Scams

Conned on Social Media? It’s not just you

In 2021, more than 95,000 Americans told the Federal Trade Commission that they’d been scammed with a con that started on social media. In fact, more than one in four people who reported to the FTC that they lost money to any scam said the transaction started with a post, an ad, or a message on a social media platform. And the losses amounted to about $770 million.

Americans reported losing the most money to investment scams (particularly those involving bogus cryptocurrency investments) and romance scams. More than a third of the Americans who lost money to romance scams said it started on Facebook or Instagram.

The largest number of reports came from people who lost money trying to buy something they saw marketed on social media. Most said they didn’t get what they paid for, while some reported ads that impersonated a real online retailer. Reports of social media fraud increased for all age groups in 2021, but people 18 to 39 were more than twice as likely to report losing money than older adults.

Scammers trying to get your money are always looking for new ways to reach people. And they’ll use whatever they know about you to target their pitch. Here are a few actions you can take to protect yourself, no matter which social media platform you use:

  • Try to limit who can see your posts and information on social media. Of course, all platforms collect information about you from your activities on social media, but visit your privacy settings to set some restrictions.
  • Check if you can opt out of targeted advertising. Some platforms let you do that.
  • If you see urgent messages from a “friend” asking for money, stop. It could be a hacker behind that post pretending to be your friend.
  • Don’t deal with a vendor that requires payment by cryptocurrency, gift card, or wire transfer. That’s sure to be a scam.

If you see or experience scam on social media, report it to ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

For More Information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if they, their friends or relatives have been scammed on social media.  If so, what have been their experiences?
  • Ask students to make a list of actions they might take to protect themselves from social media scams.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do many people fall victims to scammers?  What can they do to protect themselves?
  2. What can the federal, state, and local governments do to protect consumers from scams?
Categories: Chapter 6, Frauds and Scams | Tags: | Leave a comment

Gift Card Scams

Someone might ask you to pay for something by putting money on a gift card, like a Google Play or iTunes card, and then giving them the numbers on the back of the card. If anyone asks you to do this, they’re trying to scam you. No legitimate business or government agency will ever insist you pay them with a gift card. Anyone who demands to be paid with a gift card is a scammer.

What Gift Card Scams Look Like

Gift cards are for gifts, not for payments. But these cards are popular with scammers because gift cards are easy for people to find and buy, and cards have fewer protections for buyers compared to some other payment options. Gift cards are more like cash: once you use the card, the money on it is gone. Scammers like this.

If someone calls you and demands that you pay them with gift cards, you can bet that a scammer is behind that call. Once they have the gift card number and the PIN, they have your money. Scammers may tell you many stories to get you to pay them with gift cards, but this is what usually happens:

  1. The caller says it’s urgent. The scammer says you have to pay right away or something terrible will happen.
  2. The caller usually tells you which gift card to buy. They might say to put money on an eBay, Google Play, Target, or iTunes gift card. They might send you to a specific store — often Walmart, Target, CVS, or Walgreens. Sometimes they tell you to buy cards at several stores, so cashiers won’t get suspicious. And, the caller might stay on the phone with you while you go to the store and load money onto the card. These are all signs of a scam.
  3. The caller asks you for the gift card number and PIN. The card number and PIN on the back of the card let the scammer get the money you loaded onto the card. And the scammer gets it right away.

 For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions:

  • How do scammers convince you to pay with gift cards?  Make a list of common gift card scams and schemes, and share it with others.
  • Ask if anyone has paid someone with a gift card.  If so, what was their experience?

Discussion Questions:

1.  What are signs of a gift card scam and how can one spot a gift card scammer?

2.  What steps should you take if you paid a scammer with gift cards?

Categories: Chapter 5, Frauds and Scams, Identity Theft | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Tips To Avoid Internet Scams

Each day, more and more scams surface through computers, tablets, cellphones, and other smart devices. To protect your personal information and to avoid being a victim of fraud, the following actions are recommended:

  • Keep operating systems, browsers, programs, apps, and security components up to date.
  • Be aware of the latest scam techniques being used by fraudsters. Search online to learn about current scams.
  • Enable firewalls for your computer and router.
  • Install an antivirus program for your computer, tablet, and smartphone that updates automatically.
  • Create a guest network for visitors to your home to use, to avoid them having to access your home network.
  • Don’t click or respond to emails, phone calls, or text messages from strange addresses and those with unusual subject lines.
  • Update passwords often with a random, complex series of letters, numbers, and symbols; don’t use the same password on different sites. Consider use of a password manager. 
  • Use only reputable sites when shopping online. Use a credit card instead of a debit card for greater financial protection. Don’t click on links or pop-ups, which can be a fake, look-alike website; instead, go directly to the shopping website.
  • Adjust privacy settings on your devices, and for websites you visit for your best protection.  
  • Regularly back up your data in case of a malicious attack, so you don’t lose access to your information and files. If you encounter a ransomware attack, file a report with the FBI.
  • Avoid use of public Wi-Fi to prevent potential fraud and identity theft.
  • Be cautious with your social media posts, especially information about children and teens. Don’t post personal information, vacation plans, work and home schedules, address or other contact information. Don’t “check in” at the locations you visit. 
  • Be cautious about online gaming, which can result in identity theft, bullying, harassment and online predators. Children should use an avatar or nickname.

For additional information on avoiding online scams, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students search online for examples of recently-created online scams.
  • Have students create a video, poster, or slide presentation with common email scams and actions to avoid those situations.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What are some reasons that a person might become a victim of an online scam?
  2. Describe actions to learn about new online scams. 
Categories: Chapter 4, Chapter 6, Frauds and Scams, Identity Theft | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

How to protect yourself from social media identity theft

If you use social media, you could be a target for identity theft. You can buy identity theft insurance – or it might be included in your homeowners or renters policy. But taking simple steps to protect your social media accounts can help you avoid most scams.

  1. Don’t post ID cards

It might be tempting to post a photo of a new license or ID card, but it may include your birthday and other identifying data.

  • Question quizzes and surveys

Watch out for quizzes that ask for personal information. Scammers ask questions with answers you might use for security login questions, such as the model of your first car, your first pet’s name, or your hometown.

  • Don’t overshare

Most social media sites and apps ask you about yourself, then display that information on your profile. Be careful what you give them. The more a scammer knows about you, the easier it is to create a fake account with your information. If an app allows it, keep your profile private.

  • Limit app sharing

Many apps let you sign in with a more popular app. But when you do, you usually agree to let the new app use data from the old one. If one app is hacked, scammers can get data from every app linked to it.

  • Close old accounts

Scammers look for old, unused accounts with outdated passwords that are easy to hack. If you don’t use an app, delete your account.

  • Protect family members

Teens are the most likely to overshare. They usually have clean credit histories, which makes their identities valuable. Seniors don’t use social media as often but might not know when they’ve been hacked. It’s a good idea to check the accounts of family members in those groups.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions:

  • Ask students how they protect their social media accounts.  What precautions are particularly useful to protect their identity on the Internet?
  • Why are teens more likely to overshare their personal information on the social media?

Discussion Questions:

  1. What can regulatory agencies, such as, the Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, do to protect your social media accounts?
  2. Should Facebook, Instagram, Whats App, etc. provide clear guidance on what to post (or not to post) on social media sites?  How it might be done to protect consumers?
Categories: Chapter 6, Frauds and Scams, Identity Theft | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Do you need identity theft insurance?

Victims of identity theft can be left with a bad credit record that can take months to correct. Here’s what you need to know about identity theft insurance and how to protect yourself.

  1. You may be covered

Some homeowners policies include coverage for identity theft. Check your policy or ask your agent to see if yours does. Other companies can add it to your homeowners or renter’s policy or sell you a stand-alone policy. These typically cost $25-$50 a year. Some credit monitoring services also provide identify theft protection or help with recovery.

2. What it includes

Identity theft insurance pays you back for what you spend to restore your identity and repair your credit. These costs can include fees, phone bills, lost wages, notary and certified mailing costs, and sometimes attorney fees. Some policies include credit monitoring and alerts and help you start the process to restore your identity. As with any insurance policy, make sure to know exactly what you’re purchasing and be sure to ask about deductibles and policy limits.

3. Is it worth it?

The U.S. Department of Justice reported recently that 7 percent of Americans were the victims of identity theft. Of those, half said it cost them less than $100, and 14 percent said they lost $1,000 or more. Banks and credit card companies already cover most or all losses due to fraud so most victims’ spend more time than money restoring their identity. However, complex cases can mean attorney’s fees and lost wages if you need to take off work, which could be covered by an identity theft policy.

4. How to protect yourself

You can take the following steps to protect yourself from identity theft:Be aware of your setting when you’re entering a credit card number or providing one over the phone. Make sure strangers can’t see or hear you.

Always tear up applications for “pre-approved” credit cards you get in the mail. Criminals may use them and try to activate the cards.

Never respond to unsolicited email that requests identifying data.

 For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions:

  • Ask students if they ever thought of purchasing identity theft insurance?  If so, did they purchase it or not?  What have been their experiences?
  • Ask students to make a list of steps to take to protect themselves from identity theft.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why purchase identity theft insurance if it is already covered by your homeowners insurance policy?
  2. Under what circumstances is identity theft insurance necessary?  Is it worth it?  Explain.
Categories: Chapter 6, Frauds and Scams, Identity Theft | Tags: , | Leave a comment

New IRS imposter scam targets college students and staff

If you’re a college student, faculty, or staff member, pay attention to this scam. IRS imposters are sending phishing emails to people with “.edu” email addresses, saying they have information about your “tax refund payment.” What do they really want? Your personal information.

Scammers are sending emails with subject lines like, “Tax Refund Payment” or “Recalculation of your tax refund payment.” The email asks you to click a link and submit a form to claim your “refund.”

What happens if you click the link? The website asks for personal information, including your name, Social Security number (SSN), date of birth, prior year’s annual gross income (AGI), driver’s license number, address, and electronic filing PIN. Scammers can use or sell this information for identity theft.

The emails can look really real and include the IRS logo. But no matter what the email looks like or says, one thing stays true: the IRS will not first contact you by email. They will always start by sending you a letter. And, to confirm that it’s really the IRS, you can call them directly at 800-829-1040.

If you clicked a link in one of these emails and shared personal information, file a report at IdentityTheft.gov to get a customized recovery plan based on what information you shared.

If you spotted this scam, the IRS is asking you to forward the email as an attachment to phishing@irs.gov and at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions:

  • Ask students if they, their relatives or friends have received such scam emails.  If so, how did they respond to the scam?
  • Why have imposter scams increased so rapidly in the last few years?  What, if anything, can consumers do to avoid such scams?

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why is it important not to click on the links, even if they seem to be legitimate?
  2. If you clicked on such a link, what steps should you take to protect yourself and others from being scammed?
Categories: Chapter 3, Chapter 6, Frauds and Scams | Tags: , | Leave a comment

SCAM TRACKING MAP

Not everyone will be a victim of fraud, but everyone is a target. The AARP Fraud Watch Network offers a scam-tracking map to report fraud activity based on user-submitted information.

To help protect yourself and others, people are asked to report a scam they encounter.  The online form requests your zip code, method of contact (advertisement, door-to-door, Internet, e-mail, U.S. mail, or other), the type of scam, and the amount of money lost to the con artist. The list of scams includes more than 50 types, ranging from debt collection and charities to contests and online auctions.

Further assistance in reporting a scam is available at 1-877-908-3360.  AARP warns that it does not independently verify scam reports, nor guarantee the accuracy of reported scams.

Commonly suggested actions to avoid being taken by a scam include:

  • Only do business with reputable companies.
  • Understand contracts or other documents you sign.
  • Beware of impulse buying; con artists often tell you this is your last chance.
  • If it sounds too good to be true…it probably is!
  • STOP…WAIT…THINK…DON’T!

For additional information on the scam tracking map, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students locate examples of current scams that have surfaced in their area.
  • Have students create a video with suggested actions to take to avoid being taken by a scam.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What are reasons that some people are easily deceived by frauds and scams?
  2. Describe actions that might be taken to avoid scams and fraud.
Categories: Chapter 6, Frauds and Scams | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Gift Cards Scams

new data analysis by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) shows that gift cards continue to be the most common form of payment when Americans report losing money to most scammers.

Since 2018, the data analysis shows American consumers have reported spending nearly $245 million on gift cards that they used to pay scammers for a wide variety of scams.   Scammers most likely to rely on gift cards as a payment method  were government imposters, family imposters, business imposters, and tech support scams.

In these scams, the scammers convince consumers that they must pay using gift cards. The reasons scammers present vary, but they always tell you that you must go to a retail outlet, purchase physical gift cards, and then provide the PIN numbers on the cards to the scammer. Reports suggest scammers favor certain brands of gift cards, such as, eBay or Amazon, however, their brand preferences change over time.

Because of the rapid increase in scams, the FTC has started a new campaign to partner with retailers around the country to help prevent consumers avoid a gift card payment scam.

The FTC has created warning signs that retailers can place directly at the point of sale for gift cards—both on the racks where they are displayed and at cash registers. The signs are designed to stop consumers who may be ready to buy gift cards to pay a scammer, raising key questions and reminding them that “gift cards are for gifts, not payments.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • How many students have purchased gift cards and how did they use these cards? For personal use?  For gifts? For scammers?
  • What can you do to protect yourself and your family against gift card scams?
  • What will you do if someone calls you from tech support and asks you to pay them with a gift card to fix your computer?

Discussion Questions

  1. Why gift cards continue to be the most common form of payment for most scammers?
  2. Why do so many Americans get scammed by imposters?
  3. What can consumers do to avoid such scams?
  4. Discuss the statement, “Gift cards are for gifts, not payments”.
Categories: Chapter 5, Frauds and Scams | Tags: | Leave a comment

Income Illusion

With record unemployment and the ongoing financial impact of the pandemic, many Americans are struggling to make ends meet — and scammers are pitching income scams with false promises of success and financial security.

In a typical pitch, scammers state that you can make a lot of money, for example, working from home with little time and effort, or starting your own online business. But those promises of big money are all an income illusion. In fact, in the first nine months of 2020 alone, Americans reported to the FTC that they lost at least $150 million. The total amount of alleged losses is over $1 billion.

Sometimes these scammers focus their pitches on particular communities.  In one case, a work-from-home scam targeted Latinas through Spanish language TV ads. In another case, an alleged investment scam affected older adults, retirees, and immigrants. And even veterans, students, and college-age adults are targeted with a business coaching scam.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found in income scams the average loss was less than $500. Americans who lost money were 44% more likely to live in majority Black communities.

How to Spot an Income Scam

Everyone can be targeted by income scams.  A scammer’s offer may tell you that:

  • Make money selling in your community. Be your own boss.
  • Learn from the experts how to generate guarantee income.
  • You got the job! Deposit this check and send money or buy gift cards.
  • Work from home and make money with little time and effort!
  • Just recruit more people to make big money!

Before you accept a business offer:

  • Take your time

Avoid high pressure sales pitches that require you get involved now or risk losing out.

  • Be skeptical about success stories and testimonials.

Glowing stories could be fake and online reviews may have come from made-up profiles.

  • Don’t bank on a “cleared” check.

If you’re told to send some money or buy gift cards, you can bet it’s a fake even if you see the   money in your account.

  • Do your research.

Search online for the company’s name plus words like “review,” “scam,” or “complaints.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if they, their friends, or families have received such offers from scammers. If so, how did they respond?
  • Ask students what they would personally do to fight income scams and help people recognize and avoid them.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do scammers focus their pitches on particular communities?
  2. Why is it important to search online for company’s name plus words like “review”, “scams”, and “complaints” before making a decision”?
Categories: Chapter 6, Consumer Complaints, Frauds and Scams | Tags: , | Leave a comment

What to Do When Information Is Lost or Exposed

What to Do When Information Is Lost or Exposed

Did you recently get a notice informing you that your personal information was exposed in a data breach? Did you lose your wallet? Or learn that an online account was hacked? Depending on what information was lost, there are steps you can take to help protect yourself from identity theft

What information was lost or exposed?

  1. Social Security number
  • If a company responsible for exposing your information offers you free credit monitoring, take advantage of it.
  • Get your free credit reports from annualcreditreport.com. Check for any accounts or charges you don’t recognize.
  • Consider placing a free credit freeze. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name.
  • Try to file your taxes early — before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job.
  • Respond right away to letters from the IRS.  Don’t believe anyone who calls and says you’ll be arrested unless you pay for taxes or debt.
  • Continue to check your credit reports at annualcreditreport.com.  You can order a free report from each of the three credit reporting companies once a year.
  1. Online login or password
  • Log in to that account and change your password. If possible, also change your user name. If you can’t log in, contact the company. Ask them how you can recover or shut down the account.

3. Debit or credit card number

  • Contact your bank or credit card company to cancel your card and request a new one.
  • Review your transactions regularly. Make sure no one misused your card. If you find fraudulent charges, call the fraud department and get them removed.
  • If you have automatic payments set up, update them with your new card number.
  • Check your credit report at annualcreditreport.com.

4. Bank account information

  • Contact your bank to close the account and open a new one.
  • Review your transactions regularly to make sure no one misused your account. If you find fraudulent charges or withdrawals, call the fraud department and get them removed.
  • If you have automatic payments set up, update them with your new bank account information.
  1. Driver’s license information
  • Contact your nearest motor vehicles branch to report a lost or stolen driver’s license. The state might flag your license number in case someone else tries to use it, or they might suggest that you apply for a duplicate.
  • Check your credit report at annualcreditreport.com.

 

For More Information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions:

  • Ask how many students check their credit report at least once a year. What is the importance of checking your credit report regularly?
  • Ask if any student has placed a credit freeze. If so, what was their experience?

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the difference between a credit freeze and a fraud alert?
  2. What must you do if someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund?
Categories: Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Frauds and Scams, Identity Theft | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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