NOVEMBER 2018
DEVIOUS SPECIAL SECURITY SPOOFERS
Scammers are becoming more devious every day and you need to be more alert than ever in response. There's a new phone scam targeting Social Security beneficiaries Scammers are engaging in a caller ID trick called "spoofing" to make it appear that they are calling from the Social Security Administration (SSA).  
 
If you get a call that looks like it's from the Social Security Administration (SSA), think twice. Scammers are spoofing SSA's 800 customer service number to try to get your personal information. Spoofing means that scammers can call from anywhere, but they make your caller ID show a different number - often one that looks legit. They are counting on you to trust your caller ID. 

Here are few things you should know about these so-called SSA calls.  Your phone rings. Your caller ID shows that it's the SSA calling from (800) 772-1213. The caller says he works for the Social Security Administration and needs your personal information - like your Social Security number - to increase your benefits payments. Or he threatens to cut off your benefits if you don't give the information. 
 
Yes, it is the SSA's real phone number, but the scammers on the phone are spoofing the number to make the call look real.  But it's not really the Social Security Administration calling. The Spoofers are counting on you to trust caller ID. If a call comes in from that number, you can't be sure it's really SSA calling. Don't give out your personal information. Hang Up. 
 
If you get one of these calls. Remember:
  • You can't trust caller ID. If a call comes in from (800) 772-1213, you can't be sure it's really SSA calling.
  • If you have any doubt, hang up immediately. You can follow up with a call to SSA directly.Call (800) 772-1213 - that really is the phone number for the Social Security Administration. If you dial that number, you know who you're getting. If someone class you from that number you can no longer be sure. 
  • SSA will not threaten you. Real SSA employees will never threaten you to get personal information. They also won't promise to increase your benefits in exchange for information. If they do, it's a scam.

If you get a spoofed call, report it. If someone calls, claiming to be from SSA and asking for information like your Social Security number, report it to SSA's Office of Inspector General at (800) 269-0271 or oig.ssa.gov/report. You can also report these calls to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

 

COLLEGE TEST PREP SCAMS
Scammers are targeting parents and grandparents of high school students preparing for college. The scammers claim to be from The College Board - the organization responsible for the PSAT and SAT tests. They call or email you, asking for credit card numbers so they can send PSAT prep materials that the student has supposedly requested. Often the scammers have the student's name, address and phone number - making them seem more believable. Except your student didn't ask for materials, and it's not this group calling.
 
Here are some tips to avoid a test prep scam.
  • The College Board will never ask you to give credit card, bank account or password information over the phone or via email.
  • Make sure the company offering test prep materials is legitimate. How? Before you give up your money or personal information, research the company online. Search for their name plus the word "scam" or "complaint." See about other people's experiences. 
  • And talk to someone you trust, like your student, a parent or another grandparent or your student's 's school counselor, before you pay. 
  If anyone asks you to pay for test prep materials by wiring money or by using a reloadable card or gift card, it's a scam.  If you find out you paid a scammer, you may be able to get your money back if you report it quickly. Most credit cards have significant fraud protection built in. Contact the card's issuer for more information.
SCAMMERS DEMAND GIFT CARDS
Gift cards are a great way to give a gift. But did you know they are also a scammer's favorite way to steal money? According to the FTC's new Data Spotlight, more scammers are demanding payment with a gift card than ever before - a whopping 270 percent increase since 2015.
 
Scammers might pose as IRS officials and say you're in trouble for not paying taxes; or a family member with an emergency; or a public utility company threatening to shut off your water; or even a service member selling something before deployment. 
 
If someone calls with urgent news or a convincing story and then pressures you to pay them by buying a gift card, like an iTunes or Google Play card, and then giving them the codes on the back of the card - stop. It's a scam. Gift cards are for gifts, not for payments.
 
If you paid a scammer with a gift card, report it as soon as possible. Call the card company and tell them the gift card was used in a scam. Then, tell the FTC about it - or any other scam - at ftc.gov/complaint. Your reports may help law enforcement agencies launch investigations that could stop imposters and other fraudsters in their tracks. 
CAR SALES SCAMS
The FTC has been hearing about a new scam targeting people who are selling their cars online. They're receiving calls or texts from people who claim to be interested in buying the car - but first want to see a car history report. They ask the seller to get the report from a specific website, where the seller needs to enter some information and pay about $20 by credit card for the report. The seller then sends it to the supposed buyer but never hears back. Strange, huh?  
 
Well, it gets even more strange. When the car sellers go to one of these websites, they're automatically redirected to sites ending in '.vin' - which seems like it might be related to your car's vehicle identification number or VIN. Scammers hope you'll think that, but it is not.
 
If you are selling a car online and someone asks you to get a car history report from a specific site, ask why and think twice. It might be a ruse to get your personal information, including your credit card account number. It also could be a way for companies called "lead generators" to get information, which they sell to third parties for advertising and marketing purposes.  

Your best bet: play it safe. Go to ftc.gov/usedcars or www.vehiclehistory.gov for information on vehicle history reports, recall notices, and how to learn whether a car has been declared salvage. 
 
As always, whether you're familiar with a company or not, it's always helpful to see what other people are saying online. Simply enter the name of the company, and words like "complaint," "review," "rating," or "scam." 

Have you spotted a scam? Whether you lost money or not, let the FTC know at ftc.gov/complaint!
 
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