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The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation compiles publicly-available scam, identity theft, and fraud complaints from around the Commonwealth via police logs, news outlets, and other sources, as well as through the Office’s Consumer Information Hotline. Below is a quantitative analysis of the log by category followed by tips on how to spot and avoid certain scams, identity theft, and fraud.

PIE CHART - AUGUST 2015 Scam Log Analysis

 

Credit Card Fraud

What this looks like:

Credit card fraud can result from many different types of circumstances, but the thing they have in common is that someone steals your credit card or the credit card number and uses it without your permission. These unauthorized charges constitute credit card fraud. One important thing to know is that federal law caps your liability on fraudulent purchases to $50, but most credit card companies won’t charge you anything (that is often called “zero fraud liability”). The tips below are also useful for debit card fraud.

Tips to avoid credit card fraud:

  1. Do not give your credit card information to anyone unsolicited. If someone calls you on the phone and says you owe money or asks you if you want to make a donation, hang up. Research the company and how else you can pay your debt or make a donation.
  2. Check your credit card statement at least every month. Examine each payment, line by line, to make sure each purchase is one that you authorized.

What to do if you suspect you are a victim of credit card fraud:

  1. Contact your credit card company to report the fraud. If you find an unauthorized charge on your credit card statement, call the credit card company to dispute the charge.
  2. Contact the local police.
  3. Contact the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General by email or call (617) 727-8400.
  4. Contact the Federal Trade Commission and report the issue.

 

Impersonation Scams

What these scams look like:

Scammers pretend to be government agencies or reputable businesses. A few of hot scams now are those where scammers impersonate the IRS, Microsoft, Verizon, and Eversource. The key to these scams is that they trick you through scare tactics and threats to make you believe that you owe money, or something is wrong with your computer, or something happened to your account that you need to provide them with certain information. These may be over the phone, or they could be through email.

Tips to avoid these scams:

  1. Be skeptical. Whenever you receive a call from someone, do not just assume they are telling the truth. Look for signs that they are not legitimate.
  2. Ask for verification. Ask for the caller to verify your account number or other personal information that only the agency or company would know. Ask for written documentation of the caller’s claim. If they give you a hard time, hang up.
  3. If you receive an email with improper use of English or asking you to supply information or money, look a little deeper. Make sure the email address is coming from a legitimate email source.
  4. If you receive an email, verify the source before you click on anything. Be 100% sure of the sender before you click on a link, or else your computer might obtain a virus if you click on a link.
  5. Do an online search. Use an online search engine to search for the number or email address to see if there have been other complaints by it.
  6. Follow your gut. The consumer golden rule is: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. The inverse of the consumer golden rule is: If it seems like a scam, it probably is.

What to do if you are a victim of these scams:

  1. Report the calls and file a report to your local police department. This will allow them to alert the community that this potential scam is happening.
  2. If the caller is pushy, rude, or demanding, be wary and do not feel bad about just hanging up.
  3. Contact the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Trade Commission to report the scam.

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