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Getting a phone call from a foreign embassy might seem intimidating, especially if they are demanding sensitive information from you. Unfortunately, scammers are using this tactic to steal personal information from consumers.

We recently learned about a consumer in Massachusetts who received a call from someone claiming to be from the Chinese Embassy. They were checking on a passport application and requested personal and bank information. The Chinese Consulate General in New York reported a similar scam last year. The problem is, neither the consumer nor her husband ever applied for a Chinese passport.

Consumers should always be careful before disclosing personal information over the phone. This embassy phone scam is no different than a tax scam or utility scam. Scammers are out for your personal information so that they can open new lines of credit or take out loans in your name.

Scammers try to steal information from consumers by asking to verify personal information over the phone. While many scammers just call people at random, some do their research and find publically available information using internet searches. Consumers can better protect your privacy by monitoring what information you allow to be public, like on social media.

If you do get a call from an embassy, you should immediately follow up with a call to authenticate it. But remember, don’t call them back using the phone they provided. Look it up for yourself so you know it’s correct. By contacting the consulate, you can instantly discover whether or not the call you just received was legitimate or if someone has attempted to file for a passport using your information. Informing the consulate of a possible scam call will also help other consumers in the future.

You should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if you get a call like this and inform your local police department. Scams can spread across the state in no time so it is important to keep not only yourself, but also your family and friends informed. The Department of State also has information about current or popular international financial scams. Visit their website to read about other travel scams and the State Department’s tips to protect yourself.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws and Arbitration Program, Data Breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs and the MA Do Not Call Registry.

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