Attorney, Division of Consumer & Business Education, FTC
The scam is called card cracking and it may start off innocently enough. You see a post on a social media site announcing a contest. Or maybe a webpage that claims to have a celebrity affiliation is offering a gift card giveaway.
The variations are endless, but here’s the tip-off that fraud is afoot. At some point, you’re asked for your bank account information, PIN number, or online banking credential. That’s when you can bank on the fact that those “innocent” offers aren’t what they’re cracked up to be.
Associate Director, Division of Marketing Practices, FTC
The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced the extradition of six Nigerian nationals from South Africa to Mississippi to face a nine-count federal indictment for various Internet frauds. These six people join 15 others who were previously charged with, among other things, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, identity theft, and money laundering.
What were the scams? According to the indictment, the defendants found and reached out to their potential victims through online dating websites and work-at-home opportunities.
Not everyone using online dating sites is looking for love. Scammers create fake online profiles using photos of other people — even stolen pictures of real military personnel. They profess their love quickly. And they tug at your heartstrings with made-up stories about how they need money — for emergencies, hospital bills, or travel. Why all of the tricks? They’re looking to steal your money.
Office of Technology Research and Investigation, FTC
Let me set the scene: your friend John is rushing to get his daughter from school and his son to the soccer field, and he still needs to stop at the grocery store because there’s nothing in the fridge. In the midst of this everyday madness, he gets a text message from Google with a verification code. He thinks, “That’s weird. Maybe I should log in to my email and see what’s going on.”
Attorney, Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC
Earn rewards for supporting a project you believe in? That’s what “crowdfunding” is all about.
Here’s how it works: “Creators” think of projects. To pay for those projects, they ask for small amounts of money from lots of people, usually through online platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Often, creators offer rewards to contributors. So far, so good … as long as the creators keep their end of the bargain.
Hollywood might have you believe that identity theft means a dozen maxed out credit cards, a warrant for your arrest, and a bill for a spa appointment 2,000 miles away. But in real life, identity theft can be sneakier.
It might start with a small credit card charge you don’t recognize. Or a strange new account that shows up on your credit report. Or a letter from the IRS that says you already filed taxes this year. Only you didn’t.
You get an email from a friend, with a link and a message: “Hi! Oprah says it’s excellent!” But did your friend really send this message? And what’s so excellent?
Millions of people got emails like this one, but not from their friends. Instead, according to the FTC, marketers hired by Sale Slash sent spam emails from hacked email and social media accounts. Why? To trick people into thinking the messages came from a friend. And, of course, to sell stuff.
The email says it’s a court notice from the Bureau of Defaulters Agency-FTC with your arrest warrant record attached. It says you’ve ignored their efforts to contact you, so now your Social Security number is on hold by the federal government, you’ll be prosecuted for fraud, and you’ll owe all kinds of money when you’re found guilty. You’ve got just 24 hours to respond.
It’s not true. There is no Bureau of Defaulters, and the FTC doesn’t send emails like this to people.
Counsel, FTC's Division of Consumer & Business Education
We’re done with the Golden Globes and the Oscars but an entirely different kind of actor is still lurking around: scammers who pretend to be someone they’re not. Sometimes it seems we’re afloat in a sea of imposters who are trying to cheat you by pretending to be from legitimate organizations. Imposter scams play on your emotions. The scammers work hard to make you believe that you’ve won something or you have an unexpected problem. They say that, for a small fee, they’ll send you lots of money or make your troubles disappear. They might encourage you to pay them with a reloadable card or they may ask for your personal information. Here are the top ten imposter scams you told us about last year.