Your telephone rings from a local phone number. When you answer, there’s a recording saying the sheriff is coming for you because you owe back taxes. Should you press 1 to talk to the sheriff?
You get an email from your bank claiming you need to confirm your security information by clicking on a link. Should you click on the link just to make sure?
I’ll cover these issues and more on how people can protect themselves, their families and their businesses from fraud and scams.
You’ve probably never heard of the Federal Trade Commission. And it probably doesn’t help to say that we’re the agency responsible for those mattress tags on the bottom of your mattresses that say “Under penalty of law, this tag is not to be removed.” Don’t worry – you can remove that tag once you get your mattress home. That warning is for the mattress seller to make sure the seller is being honest with you about the mattress filling.
And that gives you a sense of what we do at the FTC: we make sure that companies are being honest with their customers and with their competitors. We go to federal court to stop companies that use unfair or deceptive acts against consumers (consumer protection law) or unfair methods of competition with other businesses (antitrust law).
I’ll give you consumer protection advice that you can use and share with your family and friends. Even though most of the FTC’s time is spent shutting down scams in federal court, we know that the most efficient way to stop fraud is by arming the public with information.
I’ll write about the top local, state and national frauds; identity theft; those aggravating robocalls; time share fraud; tips for safe online shopping; credit issues; the grandparents scam; and other scams. I’ll describe the scams and give you practical tips to avoid them.
In the meantime, if you or someone you know gets scammed, please let the FTC know about it. We keep a database of complaints that we – and law enforcement from around the world – use to target scams. You can call 877-382-4357 or visit ftc.gov/complaint.
Let me end with our standard disclaimer: The views expressed in these articles are my own and not the official positions of the FTC or any of the commissioners.
Jon Miller Steiger is the East Central Region Director of the Federal Trade Commission in Cleveland.