Most common consumer scams in NJ – and how to protect yourself
📱 Today marks "Slam the Scam" day
💲 Bad actors are becoming more sophisticated in separating you from your money
🔺 Tips to avoid the most common scams
Consumer fraud has reached epidemic levels in New Jersey and across the nation as bad actors get more sophisticated in their efforts to separate you from your money.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported a record-breaking $5.8 billion lost to fraud in 2021. That is a 70% increase from the year before. Consumer advocates say that number may actually be much higher due to the number of scam victims who never report the crime.
Among that total, the FTC says nearly half a billion in losses were to so-called government impostor scams.
Today has been dubbed national "Slam the Scam Day," and a number of federal agencies are participating.
It's an effort to raise awareness of the various scams that are currently active and arming consumers with the tools to avoid new ones.
Led by the Social Security Administration, due to the number of seniors who fall victim, agencies are especially highlighting government impostor scams.
"We are concerned that fraudsters continue trying to trick people into providing personal information or money,” said Kilolo Kijakazi, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, "I urge people to remain alert, hang up if a scammer calls, and ignore their attempts if you receive a suspicious email, text, or letter."
Most common scams
The most common government impostor scams start with someone claiming to be an Social Security agent or another government employee or member of law enforcement.
They may ask for personal information, demand payment or make threats.
These scams primarily use the telephone, but scammers also frequently use email, text messages, social media and even regular U.S. mail.
Inspector General Gail Ennis says it is easy to get drawn in by these often scary communications, but she urges extreme caution. "As we continue working with our law enforcement partners and partners from the private sector to combat these sinister schemes, I urge consumers to simply hang up the phone, or delete suspicious texts and emails, without responding to the scammers," Ennis says, "That is the easiest and most effective way to avoid falling prey to these vicious scams."
Real government officials will NEVER:
🔺 Threaten arrest or legal action against you unless you immediately send money;
🔺 Promise to increase your benefits or resolve a problem if you pay a fee or move your money into a protected account;
🔺 Require payment with gift cards, prepaid debit cards, wire transfer, Internet currency, or by mailing cash; or
🔺 Try to gain your trust by providing fake “documentation,” false “evidence,” or the name of a real government official.
Some may show you credentials
Scammers frequently change their approach, trying new tactics and messaging to trick people
One of the newest ways these scammers have been gaining trust is by producing a set of fake credentials.
They will offer to email or text you a photo of these credentials to try and prove that they are legitimate.
Tips to protect yourself
⬛ Do not take immediate action. If you receive a communication that causes a strong emotional response, take a deep breath. Hang up or ignore the message. Talk to someone you trust.
⬛ Do not transfer your money! Do not buy that gift card! Never pay someone who insists that you pay with a gift card, prepaid debit card, Internet currency or cryptocurrency, wire transfer, money transfer, or by mailing cash. Scammers use these forms of payment because they are hard to trace.
⬛ Be skeptical. If you think a real law enforcement officer is trying to reach you, call your local law enforcement using a non-emergency number to verify. Do not believe scammers who “transfer” your call to an official or who feed you a number as proof. Scammers can create fake numbers and identities. Do not trust your caller ID.
⬛ Be cautious of any contact claiming to be from a government agency or law enforcement, telling you about a problem you don't recognize. Do not provide your personal information, even if the caller has some of your information.
⬛ Do not click on links or attachments. Block unwanted calls and text messages.
The public is encouraged to report Social Security-related scams and fraud online at https://oig.ssa.gov. Other government impostor scams may be reported to the Federal Trade Commission https://www.ftc.gov/scams.
Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at email@example.com
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