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Detecting and Reporting Phone and Online Scams (AkLA 2022): Detecting Scams

General Scam Detection Tips

The details of a scam will vary, but as a group, phone/online scams share some common elements:

  • Pressure to decide RIGHT NOW. Either because of the great reward you can claim if you ACT NOW or the punishment that will follow if you ignore the scammer. 
  • Demands for cash or gift cards. 
  • Demands for personal or financial information (social security numbers, credit card numbers, birth dates, etc)
  • Frequent calls from the same organization

Here are some good tips from the Federal Trade Commission on recognizing phone scams, that apply to e-mails/texts/social media contacts, etc:

  • There is no prize - The caller might say you were “selected” for an offer or that you’ve won a lottery. But if you have to pay to get the prize, it's not a prize.
  • You won’t be arrested - Scammers might pretend to be law enforcement or a federal agency. They might say you’ll be arrested, fined, or deported if you don’t pay taxes or some other debt right away. The goal is to scare you into paying. But real law enforcement and federal agencies won’t call and threaten you.
  • You don’t need to decide now - Most legitimate businesses will give you time to think their offer over and get written information about it before asking you to commit. Take your time. Don’t get pressured into making a decision on the spot.
  • There’s never a good reason to send cash or pay with a gift card - Scammers will often ask you to pay in a way that makes it hard for you to get your money back — by wiring money, putting money on a gift card, prepaid card or cash reload card, or using a money transfer app. Anyone who asks you to pay that way is a scammer.
  • Government agencies won’t call to confirm your sensitive information - It’s never a good idea to give out sensitive information like your Social Security number to someone who calls you unexpectedly, even if they say they’re with the Social Security Administration or IRS.
  • You shouldn’t be getting all those calls - If a company is selling something, it needs your written permission to call you with a robocall. And if you’re on the National Do Not Call Registry, you shouldn’t get live sales calls from companies you haven’t done business with before. Those calls are illegal. If someone is already breaking the law calling you, there’s a good chance it’s a scam. At the very least, it’s a company you don’t want to do business with.

General Scam Alert Sites

Government Agency Specific Scam Sites/Press Releases

Some threatening scams have become so frequent that agencies like the IRS and Social Security have set up specialized scam/fraud pages.