How to Report a Scam

Wednesday, April 27, 2022
   

The text on your phone wants you to arrange delivery for a smartphone you know nothing about but supplies a convenient link to click. A phone call alerts you that your computer is a security risk or that you’re wanted by the law and need to pay up now. An email says that someone wants to pay double the price for the car you’re selling. You just need to send half the money to their brother so that he can buy a car too.

These are examples of common scams—attempts to get your money, your identity or both.

If you wonder why you feel so besieged, it’s because you are. According to the FTC—the Federal Trade Commission—consumers lost over $5.8 billion in 2021 to fraud, and that figure was a 70-percent increase over the previous year. We don’t want you to find yourself a victim, so here are some of the most common scams and where to report a scam.

Telephone Scammers

Their goal is to find anyone who will answer their call and listen. It’s the first step in convincing you to give them money, sign up for a deal that isn’t really a deal at all, or reveal sensitive information that they can use or sell. During the call, they often use promises, threats and high-pressure deadlines to keep you off balance and make you feel like you must immediately respond.

However, nothing about the call is what it seems. The number is often a spoofed one accompanied by a geographic location, for example, that hopefully conveys legitimacy to you. If you engage with the call, at the very least, you become a confirmed target for more aggressive scams. Worse, the system may be programmed to transfer you to a live human skilled at taking your money and gathering information.

What To Do: Don’t respond. Don’t push any buttons. Just hang up. You can report telephone scams at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. You can also report them via the FTC’s streamlined reporting option DoNotCall.gov.

Phishing

It can be a phone call, a text or an email. The caller or sender is hoping to fool you into believing that they’re authentic—that they’re the company, bank or government agency that they claim to be—so that you’ll give them sensitive personal or financial information that they can use or sell.

The criminals know that you won’t give information carelessly, so phishing calls or links often take you to elaborate websites that appear too realistic to be fraudulent. However, when you “log in” or enter personal information, their site collects your entries. The phishers can then use the information you supplied to access your real accounts.

What To Do: Don’t click on any attachments or links, and don’t reply. You can report phishing attacks to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Phishing emails can be forwarded to the Anti-Phishing Working Group at reportphishing@apwg.org. You can also report the attempt to the company or government agency that the attack tried to mimic.

Smishing Through Texts

In many cases, SMS text has become the new email and phone call. When phishing scammers use text, it’s called smishing because their goal is pretty much the same. They want you to think that they’re legitimate companies or organizations so that you’ll click on their link and give them access to sensitive financial or personal identifying information that they can use or sell.

No industry is safe. In recent scams, people have received texts stating that a deposit at a particular bank couldn’t be made, for example, or that their online banking access had been disabled. The texts had a link to “verify.” These are a type of text scam called a remote deposit scam hoping to get access to a customer’s sensitive financial and personal information.

What To Do: Don’t click on any links, and don’t respond to the text. You can report smishing attacks to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Phishing text messages can be forwarded to SPAM (7726). You may also want to alert the company, financial institution or agency that the text pretended to be.

Overpayments and Fake Checks

If only it were true. Someone wants to give you money. All you have to do is deposit their check in your account. The dollar amount is usually considerable.

Often, you’re to keep a tidy chunk of the cash but wire what is usually thousands of dollars either back to the sender or to the sender’s accomplice. 

Sometimes, the scammer claims that they want to buy something that you’re selling, overpays and asks that you send the overage elsewhere. 

They may even say you’ve won a sweepstakes or inheritance and want to send you an initial deposit so that you can use your “winnings” to pay the administrative and legal fees needed to release the actual money.

The problem is that the check that you deposit is fake, but the money that you wire from your account is real. It’s yours. Many of these checks and transactions are so convincing that even banks are unable to tell that they’re fraudulent until days or weeks later. By then, your money is gone, and you’ve incurred bank fees from the bad check.

Even worse, if you gave the scammers personal banking information so that they could deposit the money directly into your account, they may be able to access—and withdraw funds from—your accounts at that institution.

What To Do: File a police report if you lose money to a scammer. You can report fake check overpayment scams to ReprtFraud.ftc.gov. If you received the check by mail, you can report it to the US Postal Inspection Service. If your encounter was online, you can report the incident to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center IC3 at www.IC3.gov. You should also report the incident to your state’s Attorney General as well as your bank.

Government Imposters

Perhaps some of the scariest and most upsetting scams are those that try to convince us that we’ve done something wrong or that we might lose a benefit that’s vital to our financial stability and security. Imposter scams are especially problematic because the phone call will often show that it’s from the IRS, for example, or a local, state or federal government agency. Scammers will use any number of identities to get what they want, but the IRS scam is the most common.

IRS scammers may use a phone call, email or text to inform you that you owe the Internal Revenue Service taxes that you must pay immediately. They may threaten to revoke your driver’s license or even arrest you. Usually, however, they ask for payment in gift cards or money transfers that leave no trail—not the typical payment style of a government agency that documents finances.

What To Do: Do not engage with the imposter. If it’s a phone call, hang up. If the IRS scam reaches you through email or text, don’t click on anything, and don’t reply. Do not send them money in any form. You can report IRS impersonator scams directly to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at tigta.gov. Then, depending on how you were contacted, report it as a telephone scam, phishing attempt or smishing attempt to the FTC and the other bodies listed above.

Scams can be costly in many ways. Experts advise you to act quickly if you paid a scammer or were tricked into revealing sensitive information. The FTC has a number of recommendations, but three stand out.

  • Regardless of whether you paid with a credit or debit card, gift cards, a money transfer app or even a wire service, contact your bank as well as the other companies involved to see if you can put a stop on the transaction or reverse it.
  • Update your computer software to check for issues, and change your passwords.
  • If you revealed sensitive information like your Social Security number, you can visit IdentityTheft.gov to learn how to combat identity theft.

Taking the time to report a scam—and knowing how and where to report a scam—is important. Agencies collect the information, and when they see patterns, they can warn people, alert law enforcement and maybe even stop the scammers.

Stay Safe with La Cap

La Cap is committed to protecting your information and keeping your account safe. Learn how you can keep your personal finances safe from fraud. Check out our Fraud Prevention Resources for more tips to help keep you safe! 

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