In the United States, scams and fraud are big business. Each year the number of consumer fraud reports and the dollars lost are rising. In fact, the FTC received a total of 4.8 million consumer fraud and identity theft complaints in 2020. A 45% increase from 2019. Additionally, consumers reported losing more than $3.3 billion due to fraud in 2020. A $1.5 billion dollar increase from 2019. Read on to learn how to recognize common scams and what to do if you believe you are a victim of a scam.
According to the FTC, imposter scams are the most common type of fraud and online shopping scams are the second most common type of fraud.
What are imposter scams?
An imposter scam involves a person that pretends to be someone else so they can steal money or obtain personal information from you. The imposter may pretend to be someone you know such as a friend or family member or they pretend to work for the government such as the IRS. They might call, text, or e-mail you claiming you owe money, won a prize, or your brother is in trouble and needs help.
Imposter scams always tell you that you have to pay them by either buying a gift card or wiring money. Using a gift card or wiring money is just like handing someone cash, there is NO way to get your money back. If you are asked to pay for a service or help a friend this way, don’t do it. This is a scam! Just as the name implies, gift cards are for gifts!
What are online shopping scams?
Online shopping scams involve a pretend seller, fake website, or fake ad that looks just like a real online store. Often the layout and logos on these fake sites look very similar to the real site. However, the luxury items sold on these fake websites are often priced very low. When shopping online, it is important to remember the saying “if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.”
If you were to purchase an item, sometimes you might receive what you paid for. But most likely you would receive a fake version of the item you thought you purchased. Or possibly you would receive nothing at all.
The easiest way to recognize an online shopping scam is by looking at how the site wants you to pay. A major warning sign of a scam is being asked to pay using a money order, pre-loaded money card, or wire money. However, just like with the imposter scams, if you send money this way there is no way to get your money back. Additionally, take some time to read the return or refunds policies. Most major retailers have detailed policies that are fair in case something goes wrong.
Think you are a victim of a scam?
First, if you bought something online and there is an issue, contact the retailer before filing a fraud complaint. There could be a valid reason for the issue and often the retailer wants to make things right.
Next, if you are not satisfied with the response and believe it was a scam contact your financial institution you used for payment. You may have some protections and can get your money back.
Lastly, you can report fraud or scams to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov