Scams ramp up during the holiday season! As technology progresses, so do online criminals.
Scams affect every part of life. These people try to trick you out of your personal information and your money. The most common types of fraud fall under these categories:
The Financial Fraud Enforcement Taskforce and the offer overviews of other types of fraud, plus what to do if you are a fraud victim.
Get the information you need to protect yourself from being a victim of the latest scam tactics:
- Advance fee scams - Don't fall for claims that you have won a lottery, prize, or can invest in a great opportunity, if you have to pay a small fee in advance.
- Chain letters - These letters promise to help you get rich quickly if you participate and forward the letter on to your friends and family.
- Charity scams - Scammers take advantage on your willingness to help people in need and charitable causes. They may collect your donation and keep it for themselves instead of using it to help those in need..
- Dating scams - Scammers may create fake profiles on online dating sites and express interest in you, just so he or she can convince you to send them money.
- Debt relief scams - Some scammers hope that you are as eager to get rid of your debt as they are to scam you out of your money. Know the warning signs so you won't be their next victim.
- Free security scans - Don't be tricked by messages on your computer screen that claim that your machine is already infected with a virus. The realistic, but phony, security alerts exploit your fear of online viruses and security threats.
- Government grant scams - Despite ads that say you qualify for a government grant, these are often scams. Be wary of responding to offers, email, or claims that use government agency names.
- Health fraud scams - Be wary of trusting all claims. Take time to get the facts about a product first.
- International financial scams - A variety of scams offer entries into foreign lotteries or international investment opportunities.
- IRS-related scams - Be careful with email that is supposedly from the IRS. Scammers try to gain access to your financial information in order to steal your identity and assets.
- Job scams - Be wary if you have to pay money or supply your credit card number to a company to apply for a job. Some scammers make big promises with work at home opportunities, but these may require you to engage in illegal activities.
- Jury duty scams - Someone calls pretending to be a court official who threatens that a warrant has been issued for your arrest because you failed to show up for jury duty.
- Mass Mailing Fraud - You receive a letter promising wealth or good fortune.
- Military romance scams - Watch out for people pretending to be members of the U.S. military. These scammers will try to get in an online relationship with you on social media or a dating website. They’ll then ask for money for fake service-related needs, like travel costs or medical fees. Learn how to locate U.S. military personnel and veterans to verify if someone is in the military and help avoid these scams.
- Phantom debt scams - Beware of letters and calls, supposedly from "debt collectors" or "court officials". These scammers make threatening claims requiring you to pay money that you don't owe.
- Pyramid schemes - These investments offer big profits, but really aren't based on revenue from selling products. Instead, they depend on the recruitment of more investors.
- Scams that use the names of the FBI or CIA - Avoid falling victim to email schemes involving unsolicited email supposedly sent by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and/or Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The email appears to be sent from email addresses such as email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Service members or veteran scams - Scammers target bogus offers of government resources or financial services to trick active duty military personnel and veterans out of their money.
- Smishing, vishing, and phishing - All three of these scams rely on you replying to an email, phone call or text with personal information, such as your bank account or credit card numbers.
- Social Security imposter scams - Someone calls you, posing as a Social Security investigator. This person claims that there is a problem with your social security account. They then tell you to call another number to resolve the problem.
- Subpoena scams - Scammers send bogus email, supposedly from a U.S. District Court, stating that you have to come to court. These messages are fake and may contain links that are harmful to your computer.
- Tech support scams - Scammers pretend that there is a problem with your computer and then try to convince you to pay them to fix it.
- Text message spam - Not only can text message spam be annoying and cost you money on your mobile phone bill, but the messages are often for scams.
With so many kinds of scams and fraud, it’s hard to figure out where to report each type. First, file a report with your local police department. You may also contact your state consumer protection office. You can also report certain types of scams and fraud to federal enforcement agencies. Federal agencies usually can’t act on your behalf, but they can use complaints to record patterns of abuse. This helps them take action against a company or industry. Contact these federal agencies based on the type of fraud:
- Common scams and fraud - Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or use the Online Complaint Assistant to report various types of fraud, including counterfeit checks, lottery or sweepstakes scams, and more.
- Census fraud - Contact your regional office of the Census Bureau about scammers who pretend to collect your personal information for the government.
- Food stamp (SNAP) fraud - File a report with the USDA’s Office of Inspector General about individuals or retailers committing fraud in using, selling, or accepting SNAP benefits.
- Financial fraud including credit, loans, and mortgages - Contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about problems with mortgages, credit and loan-related fraud including money transfers, student loans, credit reports, and other financial services.
- Identity theft or data breaches - Report identity theft, when someone steals your personal information to apply for credit, file taxes, and commit other fraudulent acts, to IdentityTheft.gov. This service can also help you develop a recovery plan.
- Immigration fraud - Report the illegal use of documents or illegal actions to get around U.S. immigration laws to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
- International scams - File a complaint about e-commerce (business or trade that takes place on the internet) or travel scams to econsumer.gov.
- Internet fraud - Submit a complaint to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) about phishing or spoofing, when a scammer uses fake email, text messages, or copycat websites to try to steal your identity or personal information. You can also report malware, dangerous software designed to disable computers and computer systems, and other related issues to the IC3.
- Investment fraud - Contact the Securities and Exchange Commission or your state's securities regulator about scams related to offers using fake claims to get someone to invest.
- IRS and other government imposter scams - Report someone pretending to be from the IRS to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) or by calling 1-800-366-4484. File a complaint about other government imposter scams with the Federal Trade Commission.
- Mail fraud - Contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service about scams or deceptive ads delivered through postal mail, stolen mail, and other related fraud.
- Medicaid fraud - File a Medicaid fraud complaint with your state's Medicaid program office. Use the Fraud and Abuse Reporting Directory (PDF, Download Adobe Reader) to find the contact information for your office.
- Medicare fraud - File a report with the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Inspector General about scammers who try to get your personal information or Medicare number to steal your identity and commit Medicare fraud.
- Misuse of federal funds - Contact the Government Accountability Office through their FraudNet form.
- Moving fraud - To report a dishonest moving company within the same state, file a complaint with your state utility commission. For complaints about interstate moving services, file a report with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
- Social Security fraud - Report imposter scam calls or text messages online. File a complaint with the Social Security Administration's Inspector General about alleged fraud, waste, or abuse.
- Telephone scams - Submit a complaint to the Federal Communications Commission about mysterious charges on your bill (cramming), an illegal switch of your service (slamming), or other unwanted calls including telemarketing.
- Welfare (TANF) fraud - Contact your nearest welfare agency or call the HHS Inspector General at 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477) to report program fraud or abuse.
Reporting fraud may not recover everything you lost, but it does improve your chances of getting some of it back and avoiding future losses. It also helps law enforcement authorities stop scams before other people become victims. Learn the warning signs of common scams and fraud to protect your personal and financial information.
Report suspected tax fraud to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You may be eligible to claim a Whistleblower Informant Award for reporting the fraud. Report state tax fraud to your state’s department of revenue or other tax authority.
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