We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – it’s becoming increasingly important to be aware of possible fraud. In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission received more than 3.2 million reports of fraudulent activity from consumers like you. Top scams included imposter scams, Social Security schemes, and spam phone calls.
Be aware and stay informed about these three scams that are becoming more widespread in 2020.
Write the Full Year
It’s habit – we all want to abbreviate the current year (for example, 2.4.20) when signing documents, writing checks, and even at the top of our to-do list. Unfortunately, this sneaky detail could cost you a lot of money and stress.
When you don’t write out the full 2020, someone could take the opportunity to fill the remainder of the year out with a different year. This means that 2.4.20, like in the example above, could become 2.4.2021, 2.4.2022, 2.4.2023, and so on. This would allow stale checks to be deposited, contracts to be edited, and more.
The 2020 Census
Since it’s the start of a decade, the 2020 Census will be conducted this year. Two important scams to be aware of are phishing emails and at-home visits
Anytime you’re dealing with the Census Bureau, keep in mind that they have rules about what they can and cannot ask you. If someone asks you for your Social Security number, money or donations, bank or credit card numbers, or your mother’s maiden name, it’s a scam.
Phishing is when a criminal tries to gather your personal information while pretending to be an organization or person that you can trust. For example, a phishing email might look legit and say it’s from the Census Bureau, but will take you to a false website and potentially add malware to your device. If you receive one of these emails, don’t click on anything or reply. Forward the e-mail or website URL to firstname.lastname@example.org and delete the message.
If someone visits your residence to complete a survey, first ask them for their U.S. Census Bureau ID badge. Still unsure if they’re legitimate? Call your Regional Office to confirm their identity.
We’ve seen a lot of natural disasters in the last few years, as well as other horrible tragedies. As humans, we’re inclined to give our time and money to good causes when we have the means to do so, but it’s important to know that people will try to take advantage of you. Look out for charity scams, like fake organizations that are posing as legitimate causes, and do research before donating on websites like Charity Navigator and Give.org.
After disasters like tornadoes, wildfires, or hurricanes, scammers posing as contractors may show up, promising to take care of damages quickly – as long as they get an upfront cash payment. Before paying anyone to do work, ask them for licenses, IDs, and proof of insurance. It’s also a good idea to get more than one recommendation so you can compare; sometimes if something seems too good to be true, it is. Lastly, read all contracts carefully and don’t pay in cash.
Being alert is one of the best things you can do after a disaster. Look out for impostor scammers posing as government officials or safety inspectors and note that FEMA doesn’t charge application fees to qualify for funds. Always ask for IDs and validate they are who they say they are as best you can.
For more information on handling extreme weather emergencies, visit the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information page.
Unfortunately, fraudsters aren’t slowing down any time soon. As we develop ways to prevent and stop them, they’re thinking of new scams to target people with. It’s important to stay informed, ask for identifications when necessary, and take extra precautions. If you’re a victim of a scam, contact the Federal Trade Commission.