The Federal Trade Commission recently reported that scammers have been “spoofing” (falsely identifying themselves through caller ID as another phone number) its Consumer Response Center’s phone number (877-382-4357). But the FTC says you shouldn’t let that stop you from reporting scammers at that number or reporting scammers on line at “ftccomplaintassistant.gov”.
The FTC says that if you’ve submitted a report or request to its Consumer Response Center, the FTC might call you for additional information. But they won’t call you from 877-382-4357, and will never ask for money or for sensitive information such as your Social Security number, date of birth, or bank account information.
The Commission suggests these tips for staying ahead of scammers:
If you get a strange call from a government phone number or a company, hang up. If you want to confirm the legitimacy of the caller, check it out - visit the government agency or company’s website for contact information. A well-known scam is the fake IRS agent calling to demand you pay outstanding taxes. The IRS doesn’t make such calls.
Never give out or confirm your personal or financial information to a caller, including account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother's maiden names, passwords or any other identifying information,
Never wire money or send money using a reloadable card or gift card to a caller. In fact, never pay someone who calls out of the blue, even if the name or number on the caller ID looks legitimate.
Is the caller pressuring you to act immediately? Hang up. That’s a sure sign of a scam.
Do you have a voice mail account with your phone service? Make sure to set a password for it. Some voice mail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own phone number. A hacker could spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voice mail if you do not set a password.
And if you’ve gotten a call from a scammer, with or without fake caller ID information, report it immediately to the FTC at the phone number or website noted above.
Some recent phone scams the FTC wants people to be aware of:
Medicare: someone that tries to sell you Medicare insurance while claiming to be an “official Medicare agent” is a scammer. There are no Medicare sales representatives. And don’t give any information over the phone to someone who tells you that you must provide information to keep your coverage.
Charities:only donate to charities you know and trust. You can check out a charity on the Better Business Bureau’s “give.org” website, or “charitywatch.org”, or “guidestar.org”. Don’t assume that pleas for help on social media or crowdfunding sites are legitimate. And never click on links or open attachments in supposed charity emails. You could be installing malware on your computer. You can look up a charity’s website (after checking them out) and reach out to them if you want to contribute.
Equifax is calling: is Equifax, or one of the other credit reporting agencies (Experian and TransUnion) calling you to request account information? Hang up. It’s a scam. Credit reporting agencies do not make such calls. If you are concerned, go to the agency’s website and call them at their customer support number.
Debt collectors: debt collection complaints, says the Commission, account for almost a third of the consumer complaints it receives. Fake debt “collectors” may use names that make them sound like a law firm. They may tell you that you are delinquent on a debt and threaten you with arrest, jail time, or getting sued unless you pay immediately by credit or debit card over the phone. They may have personal information, like Social Security and bank account numbers or relatives’ names in order to convince you that the call is legitimate.
The FTC notes that you can’t be arrested for not paying your bills. If a debt collector calls you, ask for written proof of what you owe and to whom. By law, debt collectors have to send you a written document, called a validation notice, within five days after they first contact you. If they don’t, that’s a warning sign that they may be a scam.
It’s unfortunate that we have to be so suspicious, but necessary.
This article is not intended as individualized legal, tax, investment, or other advice.