Scammers are Criminals
First, it is important to understand that these types of behaviors are illegal and the people committing these crimes can be fined or sent to prison for cheating you. In many cases, the phone calls and emails originate in other countries. Whether the criminals are in the U.S. or another country, they can still sometimes be caught and punished.
Second, you should recognize the fact that these scammers and con artists are well-trained. They know who you are and how to get information from you. They are experts at tricking you into sending them money or giving you the information they need to steal money from you. Everyone needs to be constantly vigilant and learn how to protect themselves from scams and fraud.
Finally, you should not be embarrassed if you become a victim of one of these crimes. Often there is nothing you can do to prevent them. The internet is full of identifying information about millions of Americans. Facts about you have often been obtained illegally by scammers who use sophisticated means to hack into computers and steal information. It is not your fault. You should never be too embarrassed to report any fraudulent use of your identity.
If you do become a victim of a scam or fraud, it is extremely important to notify law enforcement, so these criminals can be hunted down and stopped.
How to Report a Scam or Fraud
When to Contact Local Police, the District Attorney or your State Attorney General
If the fraud was committed by someone locally, such as a dishonest contractor, a door-to-door sales person, or a local business, contact your community police department, your county district attorney, and your state's attorney general. File a complaint and provide them with as much specific information as you can. In addition, you may want to file your complaint with the FTC, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Postal Inspector, or the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Their information is listed below.
You should also contact the local authorities, as well as your financial institution, if your credit or debit cards have been lost, stolen or used fraudulently.
If you are not satisfied with the results after you have reported one of these crimes, you may also want to contact the crime fighting reporter for a local television station. They may be able to get more attention than you can on your own.
Federal Trade Commission
Use the FTC to report identity theft, overly-aggressive debt collectors and any situation in which you have been the victim of a fraud. You may not hear back from them after filing your report. However, the FTC compiles a database of scams and uses the information they collect to build cases against specific con artists. One person's complaints about a scammer might not make a difference. Hundreds or thousands of complaints could result in a criminal investigation. You are helping to protect others when you file a complaint, even if you never get your money returned or hear back from the FTC.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
If you feel you have been deceived by someone promoting a financial product, such as a loan, bank service, credit report, debt collection, or credit card, contact the CFPB. Your should also contact them if you believe a company or one of their employees stole your identity. They will contact the company providing the service and give them 15 days to respond. The CFPB tries to resolve complaints filed with them within 60 days.
Internet Crime Complaint Center
If you are the victim of an internet crime, including investment fraud, sales scams, online auctions, internet extortion, hacking, phishing or scam emails, contact the IC3. It is run by the FBI and they will forward your complaints to the appropriate agencies where it will be investigated and a case built against the offending parties. Again, you may never hear back. However, your complaint will be combined with others in order to catch the perpetrators.
Postal Inspection Service
If you receive any suspicious mail, including chain letter schemes, deceptive advertising, or phony lottery and sweepstakes letters, contact the Postal Inspectors. The same is true if you believe that your mail has been stolen. If you believe financial information was in your stolen mail, contact your financial institution, as well.
Put Yourself on the Do Not Call Registry
Another government run program designed to protect consumers is the Do Not Call Registry. Once your phone numbers have been on the list for at least 31 days, you can report unwanted phone calls to the Registry. They pool the complaints until they have enough to catch the violators. However, the Do Not Call Registry will not protect you from receiving calls from legitimate charities, survey companies, debt collectors and political candidates and parties. Unfortunately, you will have to use your own judgement to determine if they are who they say they are, or a scammer pretending to be calling from a legitimate business. Consequently, you might want to avoid having long conversations with strangers, since it is difficult to know the difference between a legitimate charity asking for donations or information and a phony one.
Do not simply shrug off fraudulent behavior or scams. Do not be too embarrassed to report crimes when you have been victimized. By filing a complaint or, in some cases, several complaints with different government agencies, you could prevent the same crime from happening to someone else.
If you are interested in learning more about how to protect your retirement savings, where to live after you retire, common medical problems, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.
Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which will be published by Griffin Publishing in 2018.
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