The 2016 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, published in March 2017 by the Federal Trade Commission, contains some findings you might want to know:

  • Florida is the #1 state in the nation for reported fraud, with Alabama not far behind at #6.
  • Florida is #2 for identity theft complaints. Alabama does better at #36.
  • For members of the military, imposter scams were the most-reported fraud, followed by ID theft.

Everyone is at risk of consumer and credit card fraud – and the bad guys are always coming up with new ways to separate you from your money. So there’s never a bad time to update our members on the most common frauds and give a little refresher course on fraud prevention.

Be aware! The top consumer and credit card scams include:

 Stolen credit card numbers

From database hacks to card-reader “skimmers” to old-fashioned dumpster-diving, bad guys can steal your credit card information and use it to run up bills you’re responsible for paying.

 Debt collection scams
You get a phone call and an intimidating voice on the other end claims that you owe money. They threaten legal action – unless you give them your bank account or credit card number.

Impostor scams

This scam can take several forms. A caller claims your computer needs an upgrade or virus protection and they can do the work if you let them access your machine online. Another caller will claim to be the IRS (like a debt collection scam). Or someone might claim to be a relative who’s in trouble and needs cash immediately.

Identity theft

A fraudster obtains personal information (Social Security, bank information or credit card number) that allows him to drain money from your bank account and run up debts in your name.

Phone and mobile

These scams are devilish indeed and likely to become more common. They include:

  • Scam spam texts that can load malware onto your phone when you click them.
  • “One ring” scams: Your phone rings once, a “missed call” message appears, and you’re curious. So you call back. Except the number is actually a disguised foreign number that will rack up a big charge on your phone bill.
  • And one of the latest (and most fiendish): The “Can you hear me?” scam. A voice asks a seemingly harmless yes-or-no question, and your “Yes” answer is recorded.  Then the fraudster uses your recorded voice to make charges to your credit card or phone bill.

Fight fraud with these tips from Pen Air.

  • Don’t answer your phone if you don’t recognize the number. Let it go to voicemail and if it’s someone you know, you can call back.
  • Immediately delete text messages from senders you don’t recognize.
  • Immediately delete emails asking you to “confirm your account information.”
  • Watch your credit cards like a hawk during transactions—and always keep your account information in a safe, out-of-sight place.
  • Save your receipts and check them against your bank and credit card statements every month. Report questionable charges immediately!
  • Check your credit rating annually. It’s free, and it’s your way to assure that any loans or credit cards in your name are the real deal.
  • Shred documents that contain your personal ID and/or financial information. That includes direct-mail credit card offers.
  • Report lost credit cards immediately.

There are many more ways to protect yourself and your money—including safeguards that Pen Air offers to our members.. We also urge you to visit the FTC website regularly for a wealth of updated consumer protection information.