Learn ways to protect your personal information and how to avoid becoming a victim with these helpful videos.
Five Ways to Help Protect Your Identity
Identity theft happens. It’s an unfortunate fact of modern life. But there are certain steps you can take to help keep your personal information from falling into the wrong hands.Every day, you do things to protect what’s most important to you. And you know what? You do them almost automatically. Routine things like looking both ways before you cross, brushing your teeth, and buckling your seat belt.
Another routine to get into is keeping tabs on your identity and personal information. Here are five easy ways you can do it.
Read your credit card and bank statements carefully and often.
Know your payment due dates.
If a bill doesn’t show up when you expect it, look into it.
Read the statements from your health insurance plan.
Make sure the claims paid match the care you got.
Shred any documents with personal and financial information.
Review each of your three credit reports at least once a year. It’s easy, and it’s free.
And before you know it, protecting your personal information can be as routine as locking your doors at night.
For more tips and tools on dealing with identity theft, visit ftc.gov/idtheft. That’s ftc.gov/idtheft.
Money Wiring Scams
Lisa finally won the lottery. The caller told her, “You’ve won millions! Now just wire $400 for taxes.”Eddie sold his camera online. But the buyer sent Eddie a check for more than the selling price. He asked Eddie to wire him the extra cash.
Henry found a listing for the perfect rental house. The owner told him to wire the deposit, and she would send the house keys.
Anita’s grandson called to say his wallet was stolen in London. He begged her to send money – but not to tell his mom.
What happens next?
Well, Lisa sent the $400 to collect her lottery prize, but she never got her winnings. She lost $400.
Eddie called his bank. They said the cashier’s check was probably fake – and they were right. Eddie didn’t deposit the check. He didn’t send the money back, and he sold his camera to someone else.
Henry wired the deposit for his perfect house. He never got the keys. And when he went to the house, the owner told him it wasn’t even for rent. Henry lost his deposit.
Anita called her daughter. Her grandson was in college 50 miles from home, not in London. And he wasn’t the one who called her.
Both Eddie and Anita knew to investigate before sending money. Lisa and Henry learned to do that for the future.
Why Care About Identity Theft?
Lynn didn’t worry about identity theft. She always said, who’d want to steal my identity? Lynn never had a credit card or borrowed money. She figured thieves wouldn’t mess with someone who had no credit history.One day, Lynn decided to apply for a credit card. She sent in her application, but the company turned her down. Lynn wanted to know what happened. Why didn’t she get the credit card? She got a free copy of her credit report to find out.
There, Lynn discovered that someone had opened eight credit cards in her name. They even got a car loan. And whoever used her name wasn’t paying any of the bills. The credit report said all the accounts were overdue.
Lynn tried to fix these mistakes, but she found out that it’s not easy to prove that you did not do something. Those businesses held Lynn responsible for the bills, at least until she proved that the bills belonged to an identity thief.
It took a long time, but she fixed the problem. Now Lynn checks her credit report every year to look for signs of identity theft.
Pass It On
Announcer Voice Over:Spending time together.
Getting together with friends.
This time of life means doing more of what we enjoy.
Unfortunately, older people sometimes are a target for scams.
And people who fall for a scam can lose face, along with money and confidence.
That’s why it’s so important to pass on what you’ve learned.
Your experience can help others.
Start a conversation with the people in your life.
For example, you can remind your friends and loved ones that, if anyone ever asks them to send money:
Check it out with someone they trust.
Get the real story.
Once they get the real story, then they can decide what to do.
You know this.
You may not have gotten a call or e-mail asking you for money, but chances are, you know someone who has.
Sharing what you know with those you care about can help stop the scammers in their tracks.
Help someone learn to spot fraudulent phone calls, e-mails, or letters.
Pass on what you’ve learned.
And remember a sure sign of a scam: if anyone contacts you and asks you to wire money – no matter who they say they are.
That’s a scam.
You know this.
So pass it on to a friend.
If you spot a scam, please report it to the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC is the nation’s consumer protection agency.
Our mission is to stop fraud, deception, and unfair business practices – and help people recognize them.
To report a scam,
Go online: ftc.gov/complaint
Or Call the FTC at
Fraud and scams affect millions of people each year – but they don’t have to affect someone you know.
It’s important that everybody understands the cost – financial and emotional.
So share your experience.
When you get an offer,
Check it out.
Get the real story.
Decide what to do.
Then tell a friend or family member about it.
Pass it On.
Hang Up on Phone Fraud
Telemarketing fraud is a crime that affects millions of Americans every year. Telemarketing scammers will say anything to commit fraud, even if you’re the one initiating the phone call.Hi, I see you’re responding to our ad for a guaranteed line of credit. We believe that everyone deserves a loan. However, We do charge a small processing fee in order to get your application in the system. All I need is your bank’s routing numbers – they are at the bottom of a check..
I was thinking about starting a business, but I didn’t have any start-up cash. My credit isn’t so hot, so I thought this would be a great way to get the money I needed. I didn’t realize it was a scam. Now I know better.
Mr. Johnson, we’ve got a credit card for you, guaranteed.
Look, I’m not interested. Don’t call me again or I’ll report you to the FTC.
Telemarketing scams usually start with a phone call, but they can also start with an online ad or a piece of mail.
I clicked through an ad on the Internet and filled out a form. It seemed legitimate. They called a few hours later and said people like me were making lots of money with just a small investment. They said it was easy to get started, and their business experts were just a phone call away. I didn’t know they were a fraud! I still get calls for bogus business opportunities; I must be on some sort of list. But now I know better!
I understand you want to make money from home.
I’m not interested. Goodbye!
The Federal Trade Commission and your state Attorney General are working hard to stop telemarketing fraud. You can help.
Recognize, Report, Register
First, learn to recognize the signs of telemarketing fraud, like callers who ask for money first or who want to know your bank account, credit card or social security number. Scammers may even have your billing information before they call you. Often, they’re trying to get you to say okay so they can claim you approved a charge.
Second, if you have been scammed – or you think someone is trying to scam you – report it to the Federal Trade Commission. It’s as easy as going to ftc.gov and clicking on the link on the right. It’s more helpful to the FTC if you can give the name or the phone number of the company that called you and the date they called.
Third, join the millions of Americans who have registered their phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry. It’s easy! You can register online at donotcall.gov. Be sure to complete the process by clicking the link in the confirmation email you receive. You can also call toll-free 1-8-8-8-3-8-2-1-2-2-2 from the number you wish to register.
And remember, although telemarketing scammers may seem friendly, they’re anything but. They’re trying to worm their way into your wallet. You can stop them by keeping your information to yourself no matter how tempting the offer.
Let’s say goodbye to fraudulent telemarketers! Visit FTC.gov/phonefraud to learn more about how to recognize and report telemarketing fraud.
Recovering from Identity Theft
When Thomas got his credit card statement, he wasn’t worried.He had finally paid off his bill.
So he know he didn’t own any money.
But when Thomas looked at his statement, he found thousands of dollars in charges he didn’t recognize.
Someone stole his identity, so Thomas got busy.
He called his credit card company right away.
Then he went to identitytheft.gov to find out what else he needed to do.
First, Thomas answered questions about what happened to him.
He gave information about the crime, along with his name and address.
Based on his information, Thomas got a recovery plan to help him fix the problems caused by his identity theft.
His plan told him to put a fraud alert on his credit report and to get a free copy of his credit report from annualcreditreport.com.
And because Thomas has created a free account at identitytheft.gov, he got even more help.
He got a personalized letter he could send to the credit card company asking them to fix the problems.
And the site helped him keep track of his recovery steps.
Thomas had more to do to stop the damage the identity thief had caused, but because he acted so fast in the beginning, it all turned out OK in the end.
Online Romance Imposter Scams
Looking for love in all the right places like popular dating sites, mobile apps, and social networking sites?Ron seems like a perfect match for you.
He’s thoughtful and says he can’t live without you.
He says he’s from the US but works out of the country.
And he says he wants to visit, but says he can’t afford it.
He asks you to send him money.
Last month, it was medical for his sick aunt.
This month, he needs money to fix this car.
Next month, who knows.
Ron wants your money.
Don’t send it.
The person pretending to be Ron is a scammer.
He’ll tell you anything to get you to wire cash right away.
He’ll never run out of excuses.
If an online love interests asks you for money, walk away no matter how compelling story.
Report scams at FTC.gov/impostors.
Family Emergency Imposter Scams
Grandad, it’s me– an accident in Mexico– I’m in jail.Jimmy, is that you?
Yeah, it’s Jimmy.
I need money for bail right now.
You need to send money right now.
Please don’t tell anyone.
Scammers are tricky and can pretend to be anybody in any situation.
They seem like the real deal.
They play on your fears.
The goal– to get you to act fast.
Check out if they really are who they say they are, even if they sound like a loved one.
Heard from an impostor?
Report it at ftc.gov/imposters.
Tech Support Imposter Scams
Scammers pose as big name companies.They call or send pop up messages to scare you about the security of your computer.
We’ve gotten warnings of viruses in your area.
Your computer has been affected.
First, download this software so I can delete the dangerous programs.
They’re good at pretending to be someone they’re not, because they want something that isn’t theirs.
No matter what they say, they haven’t found anything wrong with your machine.
They just want you to pay for software or tech supportive services you don’t need.
If someone pressures you, slow down and think it through.
Don’t give out your financial information, and don’t let anyone take control of your computer.
Report imposter scams to FTC.gov/imposters.
Fraud Affects Every Community: Medicare Scams
A teacher was what I always wanted to be.I got my doctoral degree in early childhood education.
My husband and I had a wonderful marriage.
And I lost him in September of last year.
I got a call from someone who indicated he was from Medicare.
They told me that they needed my social security number.
They needed my bank account number for new Medicare cards.
I told them I was not giving them the information and hung up the phone.
There were thousands of consumers affected by this scam.
They told consumers that if they didn’t provide this information that they might lose their Medicare benefits.
And they implied that that would happen pretty quickly.
They called back, and I have continued to refuse to give them the information.
But they would transfer me to someone else who would give me the same pitch they were giving me.
I just wanted them off the phone.
I gave them the information they wanted.
These telemarketers are professionals.
They know what buttons to push.
They know what to say to get people to provide their information.
If you receive a call from a government agency, be very skeptical.
Government agencies don’t call consumers to ask them for money.
They don’t call consumers to ask for personal information.
I think it is very important that all of us continue to learn about scams.
Because of consumer complaints like the one we received from Dr. Bowers, we were able to go into federal court, get a freeze on the defendant’s assets, and shut the company down.
I was so glad to even hear that they did win the case and shut the people down.
Avoid Work at Home Scams
I love my grandkids so much, which is why we ended up eventually moving here to Idaho. I got a phone call one night, and it was a person describing a business opportunity. And at first I just said, no, I don’t think I’m interested, and tried to get him off the phone.
But he was very persistent. They asked me a bunch of personal questions and found out that I was not working. My husband was on disability. Yes, we could use some kind of financial help to give us some more security. And he said, well, we have this opportunity of a business coaching program that I think could really help you.
It’s an online business. You can do it from home. One of the things that sparked me was at the time, I was spending a lot of time on the computer looking at toys for my grandkids, thinking about, oh, they would really like this toy to play with. And so maybe I could sell toys, because that’s something I could get enthusiastic about. Then they said, well, you could potentially make $3,000 to $5,000 a month if you work work hard at this.
With a business opportunity scam, what we see is typically a promise– you’ll make money. You’ll make a lot of money.
They mentioned that there was an investment involved, and I said, well, I need to talk this over with my husband.
What the scammer’s trying to do is make you believe you will be successful– but in order to get there, you need this additional service.
So a period of three nights they talked to us. And on the third night, we just decided that well, maybe this is something I could do. So we bought a $9,000 business coaching program, which gave us 30 business coaching sessions on the phone.
What we’ve seen– from the FTC’s law enforcement experience– is there are no trained coaches. There are no programs. There’s no one who’s been successful.
Then the next phase was I needed a business license, a website. I needed to know how to code, and they could do it for me. They could even preload the products on my website. Whenever I said I wasn’t getting any sales from all this work, they just gave me excuses, like, it takes time. It was $25,000 that I lost– total. Lost.
It’s really important that before you spend a dime, you do research, and do the research online. Do some kind of a search, maybe with the word “complaint,” with the word “scam,” with the word “review.” Contact the Better Business Bureau. Contact your state attorney general’s office. And talk to friends, talk to family.
Talk to others about it because it will help somebody else.
How to Avoid a Tech Support Scam
My name is Don Holmes. I live in Sun City West, Arizona.
In this community, we’re all seniors. After you move in here, even if you don’t know anybody, you get to know other people you enjoy doing things with. I use a computer predominantly for email and to get the news.
One day, a thing pops up and kind of blocks the screen, and says you’ve got all kinds of viruses in your computer. The design of the pop-up had a Microsoft logo on the top. And they had a number. And I couldn’t get rid of this thing on the screen.
I turned the computer off. I turned it back on– still there. So I called the number.
They identified themselves as Microsoft. I had no feeling that there was anything wrong.
Tech support scams are real. And they’re causing enormous consumer injury– hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. And that’s just based on the FTC’s on law enforcement work.
Just like Mr. Holmes, a lot of people are getting pop-ups on their screens. And often, they claim to be associated with a company such as Microsoft or Apple, giving them lots of credibility.
They told me they would clear what they considered to be malware in there. In order to clear it up, they needed to get into my computer and have my control of the computer turned over to them.
So I gave them my password. They went in. The thing came off of the screen. When I went back to my computer the next day, I couldn’t access my files.
You’d never let a stranger into your house. Don’t let one into your computer. If you get a pop-up, don’t click on a link. If you get a phone call from someone who says your computer security is at risk, don’t listen to them. Stop. Take the time to talk to a friend. Talk to a family member.
When this happened to me, I was a little bit embarrassed. I mean, I consider myself fairly alert. But I was targeted. And I was scammed.
I didn’t really want to talk about this. But I realized that if I didn’t talk about it, that if I didn’t file the complaint with the attorney general, that if I didn’t file a complaint with the FTC, that I would have shrunk into myself. And by talking about it, by talking to all my friends–
They’re not amateurs, Don.
–I began to realize that they also started talking. And they started indicating that they had experienced similar things.
That kind of community, that kind of exposure– it’s not an embarrassment. It’s just something that happens when you’re a senior. You have to talk about it to other seniors.
What I would suggest is contact the FTC. They have a website. You can fill out a complaint online.
We can be empowered with your family, your friends, and other people within your community to try to put a stop– or at least protect ourselves from these kinds of scams.
Hijacked Computer: What to Do
You can’t turn your computer on or off. It’s acting up, running slow, opening pages you didn’t click, displaying pop-ups constantly. There’s a good chance your computer’s been hacked or infected with a virus and needs your help.
Stop shopping, banking, and entering passwords online until your computer is cleaned and restored. It’s inconvenient to be sure, but it’s a necessary step to prevent the situation going from bad to worse, from hack to horrible.
Update your security software. Install a new version from a reputable company. You can use your phone or another computer to check reviews of security software. Tech blogs and retail sites usually post them.
Choose carefully. Scammers sometimes advertise security software that’s malware in disguise. Make your decision, get back online, and download the software. If the security software finds malware, it flags it for you. Delete the suspicious files and restart your computer. If you’re still having problems, contact your computer manufacturer or other tech support and find out what else you can do.
Once your computer is back to normal, change the password you’ve been using for your bank accounts, your email accounts, and all your other important accounts. The safest route is to choose and use passwords that have upper and lowercase letters as well as numbers and symbols.
And finally, make sure your operating system and internet browser are set to update automatically. You want to keep your computer operating at peak performance. Visit onguardonline.gov to learn more.
Report Gift Cards Used in a Scam
Let’s say someone calls and says he’s from the IRS. He says you owe taxes and need to pay right away by getting a gift card at the store. Should you do it? No, it’s a scam.
Government agencies will never make you pay with a gift card. Now let’s say the caller claims to be from a tech support company. He says he needs to fix a problem with your computer after you pay him with a gift card. Should you? No, that’s a scam too. Real tech support companies don’t work like that, or make you pay with a gift card.
What if you get a call from someone who says she’s a relative or friend and needs money right now? She begs you to go buy her a gift card. Should you do it? No, that’s also a scam. Gift cards wouldn’t help real family members or friends in a real emergency.
Gift cards are for gifts, not for payments. Anyone who tells you to pay with a gift card is a scammer, and once you’ve shared the gift card number and pin your money is probably gone. So what do you do?
If you have paid with a gift card, contact the company that issued the card right away and then tell the FTC. Reporting to the company and the FTC helps us fight these scams. Go to ftc.gov/giftcards to learn more about how to protect yourself and others.