CHIPS Articles: 10 Things You Can Do to Avoid Fraud and Identity Theft
10 Things You Can Do to Avoid Fraud and Identity Theft
Criminals use cunning deceptions to defraud victims of millions of dollars every year. They often combine new technology with age-old ploys to swindle innocent victims or trick them into revealing personal information, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC offers practical tips to help you protect your identity and avoid fraudulent schemes.
- Spot imposters. Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like a government official, a family member, a charity, or a company you do business with. Don’t send money or reveal personal information in response to an unexpected request — whether it comes in the form of a text, phone call, or an email. Be vigilant when receiving unusual, unexpected, or unfamiliar text messages, emails or phone calls.
- Conduct online searches when in doubt. Verify authenticity by typing the name of the company or product being offered into your search engine with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, like “IRS call.” You can also search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.
- Don’t believe your caller ID. Technology makes it easy for scammers to mask or fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see may not be real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth but are unsure, call a number that you know is genuine for verification.
- Don’t pay upfront for a promise. Someone might ask you to pay in advance for things like debt relief, credit and loan offers, mortgage assistance, or a job. They might even say you’ve won a prize, but first you have to pay taxes or fees. Don’t believe it!
- Consider payment method. Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but some payment methods don’t. Wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back. That’s also true for reloadable cards like MoneyPak, Reloadit or Vanilla. Government offices and honest companies won’t require you to use these payment methods.
- Do not make decisions in haste. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry so you don’t have time to think clearly. They might even threaten you. Slow down, check out the story, do an online search, consult an expert — or confer with a friend.
- Hang up on robocalls. If you answer the phone and hear a recorded sales pitch, hang up immediately — and report it to the FTC. These calls are illegal, and often the products are bogus. Don’t press 1 to speak to a person or to be taken off the list. That could lead to more calls.
- Be skeptical about free trial offers. Some companies use free trials to lure victims into signing up for products and bill every month until cancelation. Before you agree to a free trial, research the company and read the cancelation policy. And always review your monthly bank and credit card statements for charges you don’t recognize.
- Don’t deposit a potentially fraudulent check and immediately wire money to a unverifiable entity. By law, banks must make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. If a check you deposit turns out to be a fake, you’re responsible for repaying the bank.
- Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC at ftc.gov/scams. Get the latest tips and advice about scams sent right to your inbox.
If you spot a scam, report it at ftc.gov/complaint. Your reports help the FTC and other law enforcement agencies investigate scams and bring criminals to justice.