Attorney, Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC
Many people around the world dream of getting a “Green Card” that allows them to live and work in the United States. The U.S. Department of State runs the Diversity Visa Immigrant Program, also known as the Diversity Visa Lottery. People from certain countries who apply and are selected in a lottery drawing could qualify to be “Lawful Permanent Residents.” Unfortunately, the FTC has seen websites that claim to be affiliated with the program, but are not.
Have you seen news reports about foreign websites showing live feeds from unsecured wireless cameras — like nanny cams, baby monitors, and security cameras — in the U.S. and around the world? It’s creepy stuff, but there are steps you can take to protect your camera from prying eyes.
Selling your used stuff online has become commonplace. So have scams taking advantage of the good names of reputable online companies. At the FTC, we’ve heard from people stung by scammers spoofing PayPal. The scam generally goes like this: You post a high-value item, like a used car, for sale online. In no time at all, you get an email from a buyer willing to pay full price — or more! But he sets conditions; he is only willing to pay by PayPal or insists the sale must happen right away. What’s really going on? A ruse to steal your personal information, money or merchandise.
Here are some suspicious situations to look for and steps to safe selling online.
“Your computer is damaged ... we’ll help you fix it.” It’s the latest twist on tech support scams: Scammers sell software online that claims to increase your computer’s performance. They lure you to their websites with pop-up ads or web searches. Then, they tell you to call a phone number to activate or register the software. On the phone, they ask for remote access to your computer and then tell you that your computer has many errors that need to be fixed immediately.
When you want free consumer information — for yourself or a group — the FTC is ready to take your order. Looking for identity theft brochures to share with your book club? We’ve got them. Online safety handouts to use in the classroom? Right here. Bookmarks about charity fraud to distribute at a community fair? Absolutely. Our new and better bulkorder site is your gateway to almost 200 free publications for consumers and businesses.
What defines “community”? Is it where you live? Your racial or ethnic identity? Your age? Your income? Whether you’ve served in the military? The concept of community can be very personal.
Regardless of how you define your community, the FTC cares about stopping scams you deal with, and preventing others from taking root. The FTC is hosting a workshop on October 29, 2014, called “Fraud Affects Every Community.”
News reports of large-scale data breaches — like this week’s announcement from Home Depot — have prompted some of our readers to ask about a credit freeze. Also known as a security freeze, this tool lets you limit access to your credit report, which makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.