Avoid, Recognize, Report – What to do in the Face of Fraud

Avoid, Recognize, Report – What to do in the Face of Fraud

Person answering a call on cell phone

Every day, thousands of fraud complaints pour into the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Financial crimes against those over 60 are rising more quickly than other age groups. While the FBI works diligently to combat financial exploitation of our seniors, there are steps that we can all take to protect ourselves and educate our loved ones.

Avoid Scams.

It seems obvious, but we may let our guard down or the scammers could use various tools to manipulate their intended victim. If you get a phone call or email from someone and you’re not sure they’re legitimate, keep these steps in mind:

  • Hang up the phone. You can call the person or company back at a number you know to be legitimate, like the one on your bank statement or the back of your credit card. Do not rely on Caller ID.
  • Do not open email from people you don’t know. Just like the phone, scammers try to find victims through email. To ensure the legitimacy of an email, contact the sender directly through other means, such as a phone call. Do not click on links or open attachments unless you are sure it is safe.
  • Resist the pressure to act immediately. Scammers try to force you to act quickly, before you have time to think it through. They might be trying to get you to provide confidential information, like your account numbers or login credentials, or to send them money or gift cards. Pressure to take immediate action is a sure sign they’re trying to rip you off.

Recognize Scams.

The variety of scams is endless and ever-changing. But there are some common characteristics that can help you recognize them, so you don’t become a victim. Scammers often use these tactics:

  • Asking you to pay money in order to receive a prize. In 2023, people reported losing $301 million to sweepstakes, prize, or lottery fraud, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). As they point out, “real prizes are free.”
  • Insistence that you pay by gift card. AARP reports that about 13 million adults in the U.S. have fallen for gift card scams. Fraudsters like this form of payment because gift cards are often untraceable and cannot be stopped. The criminal actors may say they’re from the IRS, Microsoft Tech Support, your utility company … some organization that they think you will trust. Remember that legitimate companies and agencies will NEVER ask you to send payment by gift card.
  • Promises of true love. You connect with someone online through social media or a dating app and before long, they’re professing their deep, undying love for you. These master manipulators get their victims to trust them and, soon thereafter, start asking for money. It may start small but it can escalate quickly, with reported losses of $1.14 Billion in 2023.

Report Fraud.

You need to immediately stop contact with the scammer. Then report the fraud. Contact your local police department and notify the FTC. Call or stop by your bank if you provided any financial information to the scammer. Depending how the fraud was committed, you should consider having your computer cleaned by a reputable provider and changing your passwords.

Fraud and cybercrime can happen to anyone, regardless of age, education, or technological proficiency. Educate yourself, help others, stay vigilant, and report anything out of the ordinary.

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