Like bad house guests, scams come and go – leaving us hoping that they don’t return for another visit. But they do, sometimes altering their appearance a little. As scammers perfect their methods of luring victims, it can be difficult at times to identify a scam. To help all of us, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regularly reports on popular scams in circulation. Here are 5 popular scams making the rounds this season:
1. Charity sweepstakes scam
In this scam, the caller will tell you about a large sweepstakes prize that you won from a recognizable charity (such as the Make-a-Wish Foundation). Because the prize is so large, the caller will explain, it is necessary for the “winner” to pay thousands of dollars for taxes and/or insurance in order to claim the prize. Often the phone number will include the Washington, D.C. area code 202, and “winners” are asked to wire money or submit bank account information. Learn more about this scam here.
2. Mortgage closing scam
As if buying a home wasn’t stressful enough, scammers have now found a way to trick you at this vulnerable time. Hacking into your email account, the scammer sends a fake email posing as the real estate agent or title company. The email explains that there has been a change in your closing instructions and asks that you wire closing costs to a new account. If you are in the process of buying a home and receive this type of email, contact your agent or title company directly to report it. Read more here.
3. Phony Nintendo Switch emulator
There is no legitimate Nintendo Switch emulator, but you may see online ads for one. You may also see Nintendo branding in the ad and a promise that the emulator can run Switch’s games on a desktop. When trying to download the emulator, victims end up with phony screen warnings telling them that there are problems with their computers – and they will have to pay to fix them. There are a few versions of this scam, and you can read about them here.
4. Movies with malware
Websites that are offering free downloads for movies, TV shows and sporting events may be delivering more than you hoped. You may be downloading malware with those free movies. The malware could “bombard you with ads, take over your computer, or steal your information,” reports the FTC. Learn more about this scam here.
5. Utilities scam
If you get a call threatening to turn off your utilities unless you pay immediately, think twice. It could be a scammer trying to get you to part with your cash. A telltale sign of trouble is if the scammer asks for you to wire money or use a prepaid card. “That’s because scammers want your money quick, and they want to be hidden,” the FTC reports. The best thing to do in this situation is to hang up and report the call to your utility company. Learn more about this type of scam here.
If you suspect you have been scammed, report the incident to the FTC at 1-877-FTC HELP or ftc.gov/complaint.
Have you checked your credit report lately? A review can be one of the quickest ways to see if you have been victimized by identity theft. As a Hanscom FCU member, you can access your credit report at no charge. Schedule your review here.