The Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network took in nearly 3 million reports in 2018, and estimated that consumers lost over $1.48 billion in 2018. The 2019 report will be published in the spring of 2020.
“Scam artists are not going anywhere. In many cases, we’ve seen them become more aggressive, Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas said. “Whether it’s online or over the phone, we must remain vigilant when it comes to protecting personal and financial information.”
The following list includes East Texas’ most reported scams and suspicious activities of 2019 via BBB Scam Tracker:
1. Identity theft – In this day and age, cash may not be your most desired possession. The most valuable items thieves want are your Social Security number, ATM card, credit cards, bank checks, and any other items containing your personal information. If this sensitive information falls into the hands of a criminal, it may be used to steal your identity. It’s important to be extremely protective of your personal information online, via text, on the phone and in person.
2. Sweepstakes/Lottery/Prizes — Winning the sweepstakes, dream vacation, large amounts of money, a new car, shopping spree or new technology sounds great especially if you didn’t enter to win. Unexpected prize and lottery scams rely on your excitement to lure you into paying fees for your prize or and typically require that you provide your personal information with the intent of compromising your identity. Remember, you should never have to pay fees for winning a prize. You will also never win a lottery you never entered.
3. Phishing/ Smishing/ Vishing- You receive an email, text or phone call informing you that you’ve won a contest, a business or someone posing as an official at your place of employment needs to verify your personal information. Never click on links or open attachments from unsolicited emails and never provide personal information without first verifying the source.
4.Tech Support- Consumers are being targeted by fraudsters pretending to be well-known tech support companies. Victims are contacted with a message on their computer that a virus has been detected and to “fix” the problem, a phone number or website is given to purchase an anti-virus computer via debit or credit card. Computer manufacturers will not contact you to let you know if there is a problem with your computer.
5. Bogus Online Retailers- It may seem as if some of the nicest items or best deals many be found online, but use caution. It’s easy for a fake site to hijack photos from a legitimate retailer and post prices which seem too good to be true. Make sure you are dealing with a legitimate company who has a history of conducting business ethically by going to bbb.org.
Healthcare /Medicare Scam- During open enrollment season, scammers often dupe consumers into sharing their personal information by posing as “Medicare Advisors” wishing to update your account information and in some cases threaten that your Medicare will be discontinued if you fail to provide information. Also be on the lookout for dishonest brokers who may try to sell you plans which don’t meet your needs. Never provide your Medicare ID number or personally identifiable information until you have verified the source.
Debt Collection –Consumers report receiving harassing calls and/or calls for debts which are not owed. Remember, there are debt collection process rules in place to prevent unethical collection business practices. Review the rules of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) on the Federal Trade Commission’ s (FTC) website. Report violations to bbb.org, FTC, the state Attorney General’s office, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Government Grant- Victims receive a phone call, email or letter stating they qualified for a government grant, but to receive the grant you must pay the processing and/or delivery fee via wire transfer or prepaid debit card. In East Texas, some consumers reported receiving a message to claim a government grant via a friend’s (hacked) Facebook Messenger account. Remember, the government does not award grants for which there has been no application. Go to usa.gov for additional information on the grant application process.
Advance Fee Loan- Advance fee loans, also known as short-term high-rate loans, cash advance loans, check advance loans, payday loans or title loans are very expensive forms of credit. Consumers are solicited by telemarketers, contacted by email, or see offers in classified sections of newspapers and magazines or on the Internet. In many cases, consumers never receive their loan, in spite of paying up-front fees.
Employment- Scammers advertise a job opening or guarantee job placement if you pay a fee to cover the cost it takes to place you in a job. However, after you pay, there’s no job and you are out of money. Remember, if a potential employer asks you to pay the company to cover the costs of testing, training or background checks, consider it a red flag.
What you can do:
- Don’t be pressured into making hasty decisions.
- Take time to research every organization you do business with by going to
- Never provide your personal information (address, date of birth, banking information, ID numbers) to people you do not know.
- Don’t click on links from unsolicited email or text messages.
- If you are unsure about a call or email that claims to be from your bank, utility company, etc., call the business directly using the number on your bill or credit card.
- Never send money by wire transfer, prepaid debit card or unconventional method to someone you don’t know or haven’t met in person. Use a credit card and always reconcile your statements.
- Never send money for an emergency situation unless you can verify the emergency.
BBB serving Central East Texas fosters a trustworthy marketplace by maintaining standards for truthful advertising and by investigating and exposing fraud against consumers and businesses. Please go to bbb.org or call 903-581-5704 24 hours a day for information on businesses throughout North America. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, go to BBB Scam Tracker.