The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) tracks scams, looking for emerging trends and monitoring existing patterns to help stop scammers from harming the public. Additionally, the FTC publishes scam alerts, ensuring the population knows about the latest tricks and how to protect themselves from scammers. With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the most recent FTC scam alerts.
Equifax Data Breach – Fake Settlement Sites
Recently, Equifax settled over the massive data breach that exposed the personal information of millions of Americans. The breach included their Social Security numbers. Some of those who were affected by the breach may be eligible for a payment or other benefits based on the settlement. Applying for the benefits is an online process. Unfortunately taking it online has created an opportunity for scammers.
Once news of the settlement website spread, fake settlement websites began popping up. Many of them have URLs that mimic the genuine settlement site. They even use similar images in an attempt to trick people into handing over personal information. A few try to convince victims that they need to submit a payment through the website to access their benefit. Which of course isn’t true. Then, the scammers charge the person’s card or sell those details to others, leading to fraudulent charges.
If you believe you were impacted by the Equifax breach, head to the FTC page to file your claim. That way, you know you are going to the legitimate site and not a scam version.
Gift Card Scam – A New Spin
Scammers have long asked for gift cards to get money from victims. Recently, a new twist on this classic scam has emerged. The scammers pretend to be priests, rabbis, pastors, bishops, imams, or other religious individuals. They ask worshippers to provide gift cards in support of a cause, but keep the money for themselves.
Many of these scams operate over email, though some text-based and phone-based versions also occur. Often, with the email scams, the scammer uses the name of a local pastor, rabbi, imam, priest, or bishop, and the message may appear to come from a legitimate email.
If you receive a message asking for a gift card in support of a cause, be cautious. For example, you can review the email for red flags, such as not addressing you by name or using an email address that is different than what the church usually uses. There could be spelling or grammar mistakes in the message too.
Even if the request appears to be legitimate, if the person is asking you to buy a gift card, scratch off the code, and take pictures or send the numbers, there is a good chance it’s a scam. When in doubt, go to the organization’s website (not links in the email or text message) and call directly to find out if it is legitimate.
Medicare DNA Test Scam Alert
DNA test kits are becoming increasingly popular. Scammers are taking advantage of the trend by targeting individuals on Medicare and saying they are eligible for a free test.
The scammers then ask for personal information, such as Social Security Numbers and Medicare Numbers. They claim they need this to make Medicare pay for the DNA test.
It’s important to understand that DNA tests are not covered by Medicare. Additionally, Medicare doesn’t market DNA testing kits to the public. If you are contacted about a DNA kit through Medicare, it’s almost definitely a scam.
Ultimately, it is never a good idea to give your personal information to anyone who contacts you out of the blue. If a request is legitimate, you’ll be able to contact the organization directly and confirm it. This means looking up the information on your own; not using emails, links, or phone numbers in the possible scam message. When in doubt, check it out for yourself using your own methods. That way, you can protect yourself from scammers.
Have you been a victim of a scam? Do you know about a new scam that is making the rounds? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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