The Federal Trade Commission received over 1.8 million consumer complaints in 2011. More than half of these were for various types of fraud. Despite improved consumer education and tighter controls, criminals continue to come up with new ways to separate unwitting victims from their hard-earned money.
A list of potential scams would fill many pages, but here are three relatively new ones to watch out for.
Cut your credit-card rate! An unsolicited caller offers to help you reduce your credit-card interest rate for a fee, and you must fill out a financial profile with account numbers, Social Security numbers, and other personal information. The scammer may arrange a conference call with your credit-card company and ask for a fee reduction, which is usually refused and could have been requested yourself. You are out the fee and at risk for the misuse of your personal information.
You've won a free gift! You receive a call from a local store claiming that you have won a gift or a gift card but must go to the store to pick it up. The call could really be from a thief who wants to get you out of your home in order to break in while you're gone. If you receive this type of offer, call the store immediately and contact your local police if the offer appears to be a ruse.
Enter this online auction! A pop-up window appears while you are online inviting you to bid on a popular item, typically electronics, but you have to provide your cell phone number to enter. When you submit your entry, you receive a text message to your phone that you have subscribed to a paid "service," which you may not notice on your bill. This trick is called "cramming." Protect your cell phone number just as you protect other account numbers.
Remember, fraud never sleeps, so consumers have to stay wide awake!
For more information, visit the Federal Trade Commission's website, www.ftc.gov.
(Charles Sims, Jr., is president/CEO of The Sims Financial Group. Contact him at 901-682-2410 or visit www.SimsFinancialGroup.com.)