Fraud: What does it look like?
Over the years, I’ve come across various attempts to get my personal information to be used for fraudulent purposes. I’ve been notified that I’ve won several lotteries, am the recipient of unclaimed funds, have the investment opportunity of a lifetime or received a notification from a government agency that I’m the subject of an investigation regarding unpaid bills or taxes and legal action will be taken against me if I don’t reply. Chances are you’ve received similar communications. I respond by hanging up the phone or deleting suspicious emails. I hope you do the same.
While you or I might not fall for these cons, a surprising number of people believe what they hear on the phone or read online and respond by providing the personal information requested and become victims of fraud. According to the Federal Trade Commission, a total of $328 million was lost to fraud in 2017 alone. Losses that are difficult, if not impossible, to recover.
A Recent Example
Just last week, my colleague here at CARE received an email and immediately recognized it as fraudulent. He showed me a copy of the rather lengthy and detailed message. It had the tell-tale signs of fraud all over it. Misspellings, the incorrect use of the English language, claims to be a large national bank working in cooperation with a world governing body, the British Government, the United Nations and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, offering to help secure funds that are owed to you, and creating a sense of urgency by giving a deadline after which the funds would no longer be available. Typical stuff. What I found most egregious was the outright request for the following information:
- Your full name
- Your full address
- Your contact telephone and fax numbers
- Your profession, age, and marital status
- Any valid form of your identification/driver’s license
- Bank Name
- Bank Address
- Account Name
- Account Number
- Swift code (I don’t even know what that is.)
- Routing Number
As soon as they received the above-mentioned information, the payment would be processed and released without any further delay.
To us, the email was blatantly fraudulent and ridiculous. Sadly, consumers respond to such communications at a higher rate than you might imagine and become victims of fraud. Crooks use these types of solicitations because they actually work!
What’s Being Done About This? Consumer Education
The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) report of the Top Frauds of 2017 https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/03/top-frauds-2017 reports impostor scams – someone pretending to be a loved one in trouble, a government official, tech support, or contact from anyone who’s not who they say they are – top the list. The FTC received 350,000 reports from consumers last year, with total losses to consumers of $328 million.
In an effort to combat these criminals on a broad scale, there are several resources available where you can access more detailed information about these frauds, learn how to protect yourself and who to contact if you believe you may be a victim of fraud. Below is a list of some of the resources you can easily access online. I hope you take a look at these websites and share the information with your family, friends, students and just about everybody you know.
Remember, these scams wouldn’t exist if they didn’t work.
AARP Foundation Elder Watch — https://www.aarp.org/aarp-foundation/our-work/income/elderwatch/
Consumer Action — https://www.consumer-action.org/news/scam-gram
Consumer Federation of America – https://consumerfed.org/issues/consumer-protection/fraud/
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — https://www.consumerfinance.gov/consumer-tools/fraud/
Federal Trade Commission — https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/03/top-frauds-2017
National Consumers League — http://www.fraud.org
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse – https://www.privacyrights.org/topics/id-theft-social-security-numbers
About The Author
Anna Flores joined CARE as its first Executive Director in 2015 and helped to bring the organization into official 501(c)(3) status. Previously, Anna worked as a VP for American Express and has years of experience working with volunteer-driven organizations throughout the Washington, D.C. area.