Card not present fraud occurs when a credit card is used for an unauthorized transaction, without an actual card being presented to a merchant. An example of this would be a stolen… Read More
In today’s world, fraudulent scammers are no longer the exception. They send fake texts, phone calls, and phishing emails. The type of fraud that you encounter most frequently can depend on the State where you live.
Are you one of the lucky ones who live in a State where scammers and cons are the exceptions? Or, are the residents of your State frequent targets for imposter and romance scams, debt collection scams, bank and lender scams, prize and lottery scams, or worse?
Whether tricksters and scammers are after your money, social security number, or your entire identity, learn whether your State is being targeted and how you can protect yourself!
There is something about the term “identity theft” that invokes fear, and it should. According to the dictionary, identity theft is the “fraudulent acquisition and use of a person’s private identifying information, usually for financial gain”. Identity theft is the third most common type of scam reported to the FTC. The Federal Trade Commission receives 440k reports each year. This crime means that a scammer buys or steals your personal data. This can happen when you click on a phishing link which downloads malware on your computer and a keylogger which tracks your passwords and data. It can also happen by phone, text, website, and company breach. Regardless of how a scammer acquires your information, once they have it, they can hack into all of your bank and finances, to deplete your accounts. Scammers also buy personal data from the dark web. They might only pay $1 for your social security number and use it to ruin your life.
Nationwide, which state has the most identity theft? Out of 650,572 reports in 2019, California has come in at far over the national rate (8.2%). That number is staggering as it means that Californians encounter (and fall for) the most identity theft in the nation. Next, is Georgia at 5.2% (23, 871 reports) the national rate, followed by Illinois, Texas, and Nevada tied at 3.2% the national rate.
Despite attempts by the United States government to stop identity theft and an awareness campaign to encourage consumers to report fraud, fraud is not going away any time soon. With that in mind, the next best thing to do is learn how to protect yourself. Protecting yourself from fraud takes more than common sense and requires consumers to become aware of warning signs and take action.
You might think that your credit is fine because you always pay your bills on time. However, when you have your identity stolen, a scammer has access to your name, social security number, driver’s license number, and all your private data. You won’t even know this has happened until you try and buy a home or vehicle, check your credit, or apply for a credit card. Children are at special risk, since scammers like their new, untouched credit score! Credit monitoring will alert you to changes and help you review them for accuracy. Free credit monitoring is available from Credit Karma, Wallet Hub, and others.
Scammers only need an “in” or a hook. They might review your social media accounts for public information. From that search they can find out your name, phone number, email address, and birthdate. All they have to do is send you a fake email that phished your information by rerouting you to another web form which looks legitimate, but isn’t. Other emails download malware and install a keylogger on your computer. This keylogger can record your keystrokes and your passwords and login to all of your financial accounts.
Phishing emails know that seeing is believing. A scammer can screenshot or download a company’s logo or lettering from the web and then create fake emails and websites that recreate the look of authentic companies. This tricks consumers into clicking on hyperlinks embedded into emails, which they will believe are legitimate.
You could be conned by an imposter scam and have no idea you’ve been tricked!
The FTC warns consumers that imposter scams are when a fraudster (or team of fraudsters) tries to get your money. Why would any consumer give a stranger money? Because imposter scams rely on you trusting the scammer, before they deceive you. Imposter scams might also be called romance scams, Social Security scams, IRS scams, tech support scams, Health scams, Government grant scams, FBI scams, and grandparent scams. You might be also be told that you need to pay a fee to collect lottery or contest winnings, pay a government fee, or wire money.
Imagine 10 people that you know. In the United States of America, 1 in 10 people lose money to an imposter scam, based on reports given to the FTC. For those 1 in 10 people, the reported loss equals $667 million dollars, with $700 being the median loss. Median differs than “average” loss. A median is the most common dollar range, while an average would compute the highest and lowest amounts. Many imposter scams begin online or by phone. If an imposter scammer uses a telephone for their con, you might encounter one out of the 4.4 billion phone scams (robocalls) that happened over the month of June, 2019. The top states for imposter scams are Montana (10.1% over the national rate), followed by West Virginia (9.1% national rate), and Iowa (8.1% national rate).
Try these tips, first:
When you receive a suspicious fraudulent phone call or a robocall – for many people these imposter callers impersonate someone from the Social Security Administration – just hang up. Legitimate callers will call back and leave a message, which you can fact check for accuracy. To do this, search the phone number that called you and find out who it actually belongs to. Do beware that even caller ID can be faked with a spoofed number. If you think the call was from a real agency, call them directly and determine if anyone from their organization has been reaching out to you.
You should not give money to anyone who calls or emails you unexpectedly. While you may not realize you’re falling prey to an imposter scam, draw the line in advance by making “no” your answer to any money requests by phone, instant (IM) or private message (PM), or email. If you are asked to pay the organization by gift card, know that you are being scammed. The Social Security Administration, FBI, IRS, and police will never ask you to send a gift card or demand immediate payment over the phone. The same is true for online dates or acquaintances. If someone you haven’t met in person and don’t know intimately is asking you for payment via money order or gift card, they are a scammer. Scammers can also be hackers and may hack accounts and send out fraudulent payment requests. To stay safe, do not share your personal data (driver’s license number, SSN, or credit card information) over the web or phone.
At some point you may receive a genuine call from a government organization. However, more often than not, these types of calls are fake calls or robocalls from imposters pretending to work for the government. Scammers threaten, lie, intimidate, and harass. Real government workers do not. Why do scammers do this? They hope that you will postpone your critical thinking and send them money (via cash, gift card, cash app, money wire, etc.). Real contact from the government will also be accompanied by a letter and you can call them directly. When in doubt, hang up and call the organization directly, to verify the call. If immediate money is requested, you know you’re dealing with a scammer! Report suspected scams, here: FTC.gov/complaint.
Your cell phone holds the valuable details of your life. It contains your contacts, text messages, emails, and other important data. With smartphones containing such sensitive information, all a scammer has to do is get into your phone. Once this happens, they can access your financial accounts, approve password changes, and steal your money or open credit cards. There are several scams of this type, all of which are fraudulent. These include SIM cloning fraud, SIM swapping and port-out scams. Scammers, according to the FCC, will use enough of your information (possibly hacked and bought on the dark web, found through your social media accounts, or stolen from a company data breach, or – even – shared by someone who knows you) to have your cell or mobile phone ported from one device to another. You might not even be aware that your phone isn’t working, meanwhile the fraudster is changing your passwords, authorizing transactions, and draining bank accounts. Another more technologically advanced form of phone fraud is when a phone’s factory established serial numbers are cloned or copied. This occurs when the cloned phone then transmits MIN or ESN numbers belonging to another user’s phone. Using that original phone’s radio wave transmissions, the fraudsters will have copycat access to the original cell phone’s service and ring up fees. Lastly, subscriber fraud is when a criminal uses your (stolen or shared) information to sign up for a cell phone online. The criminal who does this con will have the cell phone shipped to an address where they can pick it up and use it, while you incur the debts. If you are conned and the account is sent into collections? Your credit will be impacted.
When it comes to telephone and mobile service scams, the states poll evenly. You are at equal risk, whichever state you reside in, and these scams are less than 10% of overall scam reports. However, the state of Maine does stand out with almost 9% of all reports from the state. You are at risk of cell and mobile phone scams in all U.S. states, but your private information is most likely to be infiltrated by a scammer if you live in heavy traffic states. According to the AARP’s report of data released in January 2020, out of total robocalls, 44% are scams. Your data might also be phished or compromised through malware you mistakenly downloaded when using email or the web. If your information is stolen through a robocall, these are the most common states: Texas, 6.64 billion; California, 6.01 billion; Florida, 4.44 billion; Georgia, 3.56 billion; New York, 3.49 billion; Ohio, 2.21 billion; Pennsylvania, 2.12 billion; North Carolina, 2.08 billion; Illinois, 2.05 billion; and Tennessee, 1.71 billion.
You can keep your phone safe!
Imagine that the worst has happened and your identity has been stolen. Your Social Security number and all personally identifying information has been compromised and is now in the database of a scammer. Even with 2-factor authentication on your phone, the scammer might be able to invade your passwords without you knowing. However, if the scammer calls your phone company, they could get access to your entire phone service. By having a PIN number or passcode in place, even if they know your address and SSN, they won’t be able to transfer your phone service to a new line or phone.
Enable BOTH text and email alerts for all of your accounts. 2-factor authentication may not be enough if your cell phone is invaded. Instead, the FCC encourages consumers to “stay vigilant” and use a combination of email and text alerts. Doing so makes it easier to observe changes being made outside your knowledge or consent.
As you go about your day or evening, should you suddenly notice a lapse in your cell phone service, immediately contact your mobile phone company and alert your bank and financial institutes about the findings. A scammer may have rerouted your phone service and ported it to a new phone! If a crime was committed, file a police report and activate fraud protection/alert for your accounts. This can be done directly through the credit reporting agencies. Warning signs that your cell phone or mobile service has been ported without your consent, are you phone showing no cellular data active, saying “WiFi only”, or not allowing calls or receiving texts.
Online shopping is no longer a backup alternative to shopping in a storefront store. It is the way that many people choose and prefer to shop. 60% of millennials make their purchases online and, in 2020, online shopping is supposed to reach over 2 billion people annually.
Unfortunately, the success of online shopping has created a new type of fraud. Online shoppers are at risk of opening up fake shopping emails, exposing their credit card information on fake websites, or encountering scammers who never send a product. Sellers are also at risk! Competing websites and sellers may leave fake online reviews to make buyers believe a legitimate site is bad and to fraudulently promote their website as better, when it is not. Research shows that people listen to negative online reviews more than positive ones, even when they are not all that reliable. However, bad reviews are fewer in number than positive online reviews. Since there are fewer negative reviews, consumers look at negative reviews with special interest, assuming that they might reveal unadvertised details about the product, store, or service. Scammers use blogs to bash other’s businesses and products, or to promote their own.
With 186,000 scams reported to the FTC for the category of online shopping and negative reviews, this type of scam is just beginning and many cases result in financial loss. Based on the Consumer Sentinel Network, California comes in with 243,620 cases of fraud yearly, followed by Texas at 171,242, and Florida at 177,838. Within that fraud, are shopping scams.
Everyone wants a great deal, but a great online shopping deals may not be accurate. Do not use a search engine to find a shopping site or trust spam emails. Rather, stick to trusted retailers. Phishing emails and websites may appear legitimate and contain the logo of an actual seller or company that the scammer is using to trick you. Links embedded within the email will actually send you to alternate websites and not the ones you intended to shop from. Due to this, check the email address under the email sender’s name and URL’s, carefully. Both might be close in name, to a real product or seller, in order to trick you. Otherwise, you will either purchase knock off items, buy items with no guarantee, or have your information stolen by a fraudulent website whose goal was to collect your credit card information and personal data, then use or sell it.
A better indicator than good or bad reviews are to look at the reviews more discriminating. If you search the web, do you find multiple negative online reviews, all saying the same thing? If so, the reviews were likely written by a bot or employee of a competitor and you should stick to a more trusted website or Amazon seller, even if the product is (or appears to be!) a good deal. Search the seller, product, or information with the word “scam” and see what other people say.
Fraudsters will try and convince you to sell or buy outside of Amazon or a trusted sales site. They know that this will forfeit you having protections such as your rights as a buyer or seller. They will steal your information or take your money and never send you the product. Search new sellers’ profile images and listed phone numbers, to see if they are accurate or stolen from the web.
Imagine already being worried about your credit and encountering a credit agency scam via a telemarketer. Data or information furnishers must report data under the FRCA (Fair Credit Reporting Act). There are several types of telemarketers, some are fraudulent and others are not. When it comes to a credit scam of this type, a telemarketer will say you have a fee, fine, or need a paid service. This service will supposedly “prevent” negative credit details from being reported to the credit reporting agencies or credit bureau. Legitimate debt collectors do exist, but you should always ask for something in writing and beware of anyone who demands you pay them over the phone. Threatening scammers, insisting on immediate money wire or payment by gift card or cash, are always scammers. Even real telemarketers may try and sell you expensive monthly debt consolidation plans that you don’t actually need.
Out of 136 cases reported nationally, which states were repeat offenders? Remember, reported cases are a fraction of actual cases, but these 4 states stood out as having the most credit bureau and information furnishers scams and fraud! 4 states tied for having the most fraud of this type, over the national average: Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina. All were at 4%.
You don’t have to be the next victim!
When you encounter an online or telephone credit scammer, they will try and con you quickly, to get your money fast. A real debt collector should not withhold information and must give you the information you ask for, including the name of the creditor, amount owed, etc. The creditor is required to send you notice of your debt information within 5 days of contacting you. If you don’t receive it, you were either NOT speaking to someone who is an actual debt collector or the company is not correctly following the law.
In today’s day and age you should be given multiple options to pay any bill. These options should include online payments on a respected website, via a protected server. If a supposed creditor or data furnisher wants you to pay by gift card, money transfer, or prepaid card, they are not legitimate. Fraudsters of this type only want money quickly, so they can use it and make it impossible to return to you.
A common con that fraudsters use is to threaten you with jail time. Unless you have an undisclosed criminal charge, you will not go to jail over unpaid credit cards. However, scammers pose as government workers and threaten your arrest. Their goal is to scare you into paying them, in hopes that you’ll stay out of jail. The more worked up people get about fake jail fears, the more likely they are to fall for this scam. Hang up and report the scam to the IC3.
You receive a call, email, or text from a lender. It appears to be from an actual lender that caters to people with bad credit. You review their website and the information seems to be legitimate. However, as you explore the offer they’ve given to you, you’ll have to evaluate if they are the real thing or a scammer pretending to be a real lender. Consider whether they are after your personal data? Fake lenders want to turn a quick profit from anyone strapped for cash. These types of lenders will push you to commit to their loan, as they have accompanying fees and high interest rates, some of which might be illegal.
Coming in at about 4.6% of all scams, in some states this type of fraud is very popular. So popular, that it exists at a rate of about double the average, nationally! D.C. experiences bank and lender fraud at 7% the national average, along with Maryland and New Jersey (also 7%).
Lenders are famous for promising a lot over the phone and not delivering the same when they lock the loan in and send you the loan disclosures. It will not be easy to fight against terms you signed and agreed to, even if those terms differ from what you were told over the phone.
Imagine being told that you are guaranteed a great rate or loan, as long as you pay a lender that day and sign paperwork. If anyone is pressuring you to sign, immediately, be suspicious. If these offers are harassing and insistent, they are pressuring you for a reason. They know that if you shop around, you’ll find something better. Or, maybe you’ll recognize they have a scam offer and not give them your cash. Legitimate offers – from real lenders – will allow you the time to shop around and compare.
The fees that you’re asked to pay for up front could set you back several months or even be added to the interest of your loan. Generally, upfront fees are not a great idea. Instead, you should search the lender’s name and information and read about their online reputation.
A debt collection scam will be similar to a credit bureau scam. Often initiated by email or robocall, if you agree to connect (by phone) to a debt collection agency, you might end up talking to a scammer. They may not even be a real debt collection agency. If you state or verify your information, they will collect and use or sell it. When you trust an unsolicited email, it might be a phishing scam that takes you to a copycat website and steals the information. If you do speak to a real debt collector, they may pressure you to make a payment that day. They could come up with a settlement offer to close out your loan and then sell the balance to another collection agency, who will charge you more.
Debt collection scams are one of the most commonly reported types with over 475k cases reported to the FTC, yearly. The top states for data collection scams, by percentage points over the national rate, are Michigan (14.2%), Tennessee (14.2%), Florida & Texas(13.2%).
Be Debt Collection Scam Savvy!
As fraudulent creditors may not have any clue what you actually owe, they will rattle off common creditor names, in hopes that you believe the charges are accurate and pay them money. If you don’t recognize the creditor or charges, request the details in writing and hang up the phone.
Creditors must follow the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) and cannot lie to you or threaten you. They cannot say that you will go to jail if you don’t pay them immediately. Anyone who says or does those things isn’t a real debtor but a scammer trying to get your money and steal it.
You’re a lucky winner! However, believing that you’re a winner when you aren’t, could cost you a lot of money. This is what typically happens: You receive a call that you’ve won a prize, but the reality is that you’re on the phone with a scammer or telemarketer. Believing what they say could set you on a losing path and jeopardize your wallet or even your identity information (SSN, DL, etc.). Prize, sweepstakes, and lottery scams occur when you receive a phone call, email, postcard mailing, or social media message/notification and are told that you have won an amazing prize. The stated prize could be a vacation, vehicle, or another expensive product such as jewelry. The person or robocall message will sound congratulatory and state that you need to pay for shipping or pay a fee or tax for the product you won. If you send money, particularly by prepaid card, money order or money wire, you will never see that money again. Other scammers take a different approach. They will go after your credit card numbers and personal data, then wage an ongoing identity theft war that could cost you big. Lastly, some scammers try and phish your information or steal your money by imitating well known contests like the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes, etc. If you are asked to verify your most private and personal information over the phone, or pay by a questionable payment method, you’re guaranteed to be dealing with a scammer. It is illegal to pay for or buy something to increase your chance of winning, according to the FTC.
You might not be feeling as lucky when you review the prizes, sweepstakes, and lottery scams in your state. If you live in Alaska, West Virginia, or Wyoming, you might want to beware of your next over-the-phone win. Alaska and West Virginia have 11% more of these scams over the national average, followed by Wyoming at 10% over the national average.
Your first red flag may be an email, text, or (often) a phone call about a contest you don’t remember entering. The person sounds official and you have no reason to doubt their excitement about your win. However, if you receive a call or solicitation of this type, stop and ask yourself how the caller received your information?! Or, if you receive a postcard mailing, look at how it was sent (bulk mail rate, etc.). Notice whether the letter seems to be a form letter that was sent out to multiple people.
Now is not the time to skip the fine print. Scams abound and it can be difficult to tell real offers from scams and fraud. Instead of living your life in fear, begin to read the disclosures and fine print for everything you sign up for and receive. Look for details about the company, exceptions, odds of winning, etc.
When you receive a phone number to claim your (supposed!) lottery prize or sweepstakes winnings, perform a phone number search first. While some area codes appear to be local and domestic, they are not. The AARP suggests that special attention be given to these area codes: 876, 809, or 284. These numbers belong to locations in the Caribbean and could be as expensive as costly 900 phone numbers in the states!
Auto related scams try and get your money through an assortment of car related methods. One common auto scam is called online car sales fraud. The FBI takes this seriously as it is a criminal action. This is how it works: Fraudsters post online advertisements for cars they’ve never owned. They might say they are selling the vehicle because they received it as part of their divorce settlement, or that they are a member of the military and being deployed, or inherited the car. They will make the sale of the car sound urgent and offer you a great deal that will be hard to turn down. In order to hide their criminal misconduct, the scammer may try and disguise the fraudulent sale by saying they will conduct the sale through eBay, etc. The phone number they give you will be a fake, which you won’t realize unless you conduct a phone number search. The eBay representative will be a scammer who will claim they are part of a buyer protection program. Once you pay you’ll never see the money or the vehicle.
The nationwide amount of auto-related scams are currently around 100,000 cases reported, yearly. This makes auto-related scams the ninth most common out of all categories. These account for around 3.5 percent of all scams. While this, thankfully, leaves auto-related scams under 5 percent,in one state, those numbers are even lower! The state of Michigan, awareness paid off! Michigan has a strong history with American automobiles, which led to the lowest number of auto-related scams – coming in at only 2% of total cases.
Don’t Be Taken for a Ride!
While it is unfortunate that a steal of a price, on a new car, might be too good to be true, that is the reality. Ask for the car’s VIN # and research it, along with the license plate number, and to whom the car is actively registered. Then call your state’s DMV to check if the VIN is actually registered.
Remote seller criminals claim to be out of town on a business trip or holiday. They will say that they will deliver or mail you the keys and pink slip for a new or luxury vehicle, upon receipt of you paying them a deposit (or even the full sum).
You’ve never seen the vehicle in person or met the supposed owner by prepaid card, cash, gift card, money wire, etc. As they don’t own the vehicle, they have simply used stolen photographs from the Internet. Do not buy a vehicle you haven’t seen.
Fraudsters know that appearing to be a trusted company will help their con! Look out for the actual email address writing to you. Does it change and deviate from a real company’s website? Search the name online and look for clues. Even if you think you’re dealing with a real person or company, NEVER buy a car you haven’t test driven and/or had inspected.
Internet service scams are often called tech support scams. They occur when a scammer wants you to believe that you have a problem with your computer, smart device, computer programs, or home network. Since many people do struggle with computer problems or slow internet connectivity, you might fall for this scam. The scammer will claim to be a tech support specialist or an employee at a company like Microsoft. The con can also come your way through pop-up ads telling you that you have viruses, malware, or threats on your computer. Online ads and search results could also pop up with this scam and direct you to fraudulent tech support services.
Wondering about internet service scams? If you’ve received this type of fraudulent phone call, message, or mailing, you know how effective it is. You might be surprised to know that these types of scams account for only around 2% of total scams. That percentage translates to this fraud impacting around 60,000 people, based on reported cases. The top state? West Virginia, where the reported cases were almost double that national rate.
You’ve Got Mail!
You receive a phone call which offers you a refund for computer support you’ve already paid for. This refund could be for your computer or an installed program, such as a virus scan. If you agree to the refund, they will verify your banking and credit information and steal it – not refund you!
The scammer may ask for remote access to your computer in order to “fix it”. Once you grant this, they can install malware and a keylogger or steal your password and usernames for banking and credit accounts, etc. If this has happened to you, immediately change all your passwords and security questions, check status to make sure that remote access is turned off. Contact police and report the incident to the FBI.
Other tech support scams are not quite as sinister, but will still cost you cash. You will be tricked by a telemarketing company who will bill a monthly charge for services you don’t really need. If you give out your credit card and debit card information, your information is exposed and could be used by a malevolent employee or scammer.
Remember, the goal of educating yourself is not to be filled with fear. Instead, the more aware you are of tried and true scams, as well as new and cutting edge scams, the more you can protect yourself and others. You will begin to notice scams that many people might not question. Let scam safety become part of your dinner conversation and encourage people to search, and background check the information they receive, to avoid losing money.
As you become aware of the many types of fraudsters and scammers in today’s world, you will be surprised at just how many scam emails, robocalls, and dating scams you’ll come into contact with daily. By expanding your awareness, you can also help educate those who are most at risk for tech scams, imposter scams, and more.
Give yourself peace of mind and search any suspicious email addresses, phone numbers, names, usernames, or reverse lookup images at Social Catfish. Our proprietary algorithm smart search can give you the results you might not find elsewhere.