Protecting Yourself from Scams: Tips from the FTC
In a recent press conference by Ethnic Media Services held on September 22, 2023, experts from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) discussed the growing rise of scams and how to protect oneself from becoming a victim. Lois Greisman, Associate Director of the Division of Marketing Practices at the FTC, and Sophia Siddiqui, Attorney in the same division, shared tips and advice highlighting the urgency of remaining vigilant in today’s digital landscape, as scams continue to be a prevalent issue.
Lois Greisman began her presentation by emphasizing the alarming increase in scams reported to the FTC. She stated, “For the first 6 months of 2023, we received just over a million reports of frauds, resulting in the loss of nearly 4.4 billion dollars. However, we know, from data, that this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the number of reports and the dollars lost.” Greisman revealed that social media and phone calls are the primary hunting grounds for scammers. Additionally, it’s important to note that these phone scams have proven to be highly effective, with a median loss per person reaching $1,400.
Regarding payment methods, Greisman emphasized the importance of being cautious when making transactions and revealed that the greater amount of money is lost through bank transfers, followed by wire transfers, credit cards, gift cards, debit cards, and payment apps such as Venmo and Zelle, so it’s crucial to exercise care. Depending on the nature of the scam, fraudsters tend to prefer specific payment methods.
Imposter scams and prize and lottery scams often involve gift cards, while investment scams frequently demand cryptocurrency. Finally, business opportunity scams often target payment apps. It’s important to be aware of these patterns to quickly recognize and avoid scams.
Greisman was not the only speaker; Sophia Siddiqui, an attorney at the FTC, further emphasized the importance of choosing payment methods wisely. She stated, “No legitimate entity will ask you to pay with gift cards or these methods. Using these methods is akin to using cash. You cannot recover your money.” Siddiqui underscored that only scammers would request payment via gift cards. If someone believes they have fallen victim to a gift card scam, she recommended contacting the card issuer and retaining the receipt as evidence.
Siddiqui delved into the risks associated with cryptocurrencies, which are increasingly exploited by scammers due to their lack of regulation. She stated, “Only scammers demand payment in cryptocurrency. No legitimate business will ask you to send cryptocurrency in advance, either to make a purchase or protect your money. It’s always a scam.”
In addition to gift cards and cryptocurrencies, mobile payment apps are increasingly targeted by scammers. Siddiqui urged caution, saying, “Scammers may try to deceive you into sending them money through a mobile payment app because they know it’s challenging for you to recover your money.”
Finally, to protect yourself from mobile payment scams, the experts provided a series of practical tips: Never send a payment to claim a prize or collect lottery winnings. Avoid sharing your account credentials with anyone who contacts you. Enhance your account security with multi-factor authentication or a PIN. Double-check the recipient’s information before sending money. Lastly, if you receive an unexpected money request from someone you know, verify its authenticity through direct communication.
If you find yourself falling victim to a phishing scam, act promptly. Contact the FTC through their dedicated scam reporting portal at FTC.gov/scams to document the incident.