Scammers use anything they can in order to trick their targets. The con artists have begun to say that they are from government agencies such as the Social Security Administration, the IRS, and the Federal Trade Commission. Scammers have been targeting the FTC lately as a way to convince people that they’ve won prizes in contests they have never entered. Using the FTC as a way to scam people is ironic as the independent government agency tracks and prosecutes scammers.
Thieves call random people and say that they are employees or representatives of the FTC. The scammers tell the person that that they’ve won prizes in a sweepstakes or lottery. The “representatives” often give names and office phone numbers of real agency personnel. The person listens to the call, but is eventually asked for personal information and, of course, money. The thieves take the information and the money and disappear, while the victim has little or no recourse. Banks often protect people against fraud, so the scams usually involve paying through cash apps, wire transfers, or gift cards.
The FTC is running a campaign to stop the scams. Government agencies never run sweepstakes or lotteries, nor do they ask for money.
Callers may also say that you owe money to the IRS or court system. Anyone who claims to work for the government is probably a scammer. The FTC has written a guide on identifying the calls and what to do to avoid being a victim.
- Someone calls and says you’ve won a prize, but you must send money to receive the prize.
- The caller offers to help victims of scams recover their money.
- You owe money to the government or IRS. If you don’t pay, you will be arrested.
- You have unpaid debts and your bank account will be frozen until you pay.
Receiving a Call
If you receive a suspicious call, hang up. Do not press 1 to be removed or give out your personal information. The caller may make threats, but do not respond. You can block calls on your iPhone or Android if the number is in the form of a standard number. Scammers use different numbers to confuse targets, so be aware of strange numbers.
Notify law enforcement if the caller makes any type of threats. You should also report the call to ftc.gov/complaint. Include the following:
- Date and time of the call
- Content of any text messages
- The name of the company used by the caller
- If a prize was offered, note the amount of the prize amount.
- How much money were you were asked to send? What was the requested payment method?
- Give the caller’s phone number. Scammers use untraceable Internet phone numbers or spoof a phone number registered to the government agency. Although the numbers aren’t real, law enforcement might be able to trace them with a tracking system.
- Note any other details from the call. Be as specific as possible.
The world was shocked when fire broke out at the Notre-Dame de Paris, one of the most iconic cathedrals in Paris. People mourned as the centuries-old structure burned and as the spire fell while 400 firefighters fought the fire. Almost immediately, charities – real and fake– began asking for donations to rebuild the French national treasure.
A Cry for Help
Almost 13 million people visit Notre Dame each year. Builders erected the church in Paris 850 years ago. The church houses famous works of art and serves as a museum. It is no surprise that people are willing to dig into their wallets to rebuild the cathedral. Scammers scrambled to create a plan to take advantage of the fire and make some easy money. Thieves set up websites acting as charities and crowdfunding sources to trick the public. Thieves assume people don’t know that the cathedral is owned by the French government. Private citizens, businesses, and the government have already amassed billions of dollars in a fund to reconstruct the church.
Con artists play on the emotions of people in the aftermath of disaster. For every natural disaster, accident or act of terrorism, scammers are waiting to collect from the public. They ask for money through websites, social media, email and phone calls. The pleas for money are convincing and never ending. People should take steps to check out any organization before giving any money, even if it’s a good cause.
Researching Charity Organizations
Donors can research charities by logging onto The Federal Trade Commission’s list of organizations that can verify if a charity is real. You can also read news on charities. The article Before Giving to a Charity shows how to donate wisely through social media.
People think that donations are tax deductible. They might give more money because of the deduction. However, donations made to foreign organizations aren’t usually tax deductible. Money given to individuals or crowdfunding sites aren’t tax deductible, either. The IRS can help determine which organizations are tax deductible. You should use the IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization Search to check eligibility.
How to Avoid Scammers
Telemarketers can be pushy when they ask for money. Companies and scammers use robocalls to make it harder to avoid the demands. If you receive a call from someone asking for money to help rebuild Notre Dame, ask a lot of questions. What is the full name and address of the organization? How will the money be spent? Does the organization use the money for admin costs or marketing expenses? If you are unsure of the person calling, hang up and research the charity online. If the calls continue, use an app to block unwanted numbers from your phone.
How to Report Fraud
If you think you’ve been scammed by a fake charity, report it to the FTC’s Complaint Assistant. Give as much information as possible. Second, if you have used a bank account or credit card to make the donation, contact the company right away to block the payment. Lastly, you should also report the event to your state’s Attorney General.