The U.S. Census Bureau is the federal agency responsible for collecting data about the people and economy of the United States. It must collect some personal and demographic information from people and businesses to do this research.
Some scam artists may act as if they work for the U.S. Census Bureau to collect personal information about you to use for fraud, including stealing your identity. These scam artists may send you letters that seem like official letters from the U.S. Census Bureau, or they may come to your home to try to collect information about you.
Not all organizations that claim to be charities or help people are reputable. Some scam artists set up fake organizations, taking advantage of the public’s generosity immediately after a tragedy or major disaster. Some tips to help you detect common charity scam tactics:
Scam artists use different types of fraud to try to trick people out of their money. Two common types of fraud are banking scams and investment scams.
Popular banking scams include:
fake check scams, where a scam artist creates counterfeit checks that look legitimate, with watermarks, routing numbers, and the names of real financial institutions. They then try to deposit them in banks, use them as part of other frauds against consumers, or use them to pay companies for products or services.
unsolicited check fraud, where a scammer may send you a check that you didn't have a legitimate reason to receive. Unfortunately, if you cash it, you may be authorizing the purchase of items you didn't ask for, signing up for a loan, or something else you didn't ask for. The Federal Trade Commission offers tips to help you avoid being a victim of these scams, and recommends what to do if you have been a victim.
Not all lotteries and sweepstakes are legitimate. Before you participate, keep these tips in mind:
Scam artists often use the promise of a valuable prize or award to entice consumers to send money, buy overpriced products or services, or contribute to bogus charities.
Legitimate sweepstakes don't require you to pay to collect your winnings.
Scam operators use the telephone and direct mail to entice U.S. consumers to buy chances in foreign lotteries. These lottery solicitations violate U.S. law, which prohibits the cross-border sale or purchase of lottery tickets by phone or mail.
Read these tips from the Federal Trade Commission for more information about bogus lotteries and sweepstakes.
A pyramid scheme, also known as Ponzi scheme, is an illegal form of multilevel marketing. In these programs, your ability to earn profits is based on the number of new participants you recruit, instead of the amount of products or services you sell. Sometimes there actually aren't any real products that are being sold. These types of schemes are common with investment and independent direct selling opportunities.
These schemes rely on the income from new participants in order to pay fake "profits" to people that have been part of the scheme for longer amounts of time. However, the scheme falls apart when there aren't enough new recruits to pay into the system, so the earlier participants no longer receive earnings.
Tips to Avoid Being a Victim
You can take steps to prevent yourself from getting involved in a pyramid scheme:
Be wary of "opportunities" to invest your money in franchises or investments that require you to bring in more investors to increase your profit, or recoup your initial investment.
Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your stolen Social Security number (SSN) to get a tax refund or a job. For important tips on preventing and reporting tax identity theft, refer to the information below.
To prevent tax identity theft, be wary of any Internal Revenue Service (IRS) letter or notice that states:
More than one tax return was filed using your SSN.
You owe additional tax, you have had a tax refund offset, or you have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.
IRS records indicate you received wages from an employer unknown to you.
The IRS does not initiate contact with a taxpayer by sending an e-mail, text, or social message requesting personal or financial information.
Should you get an e-mail that claims to be from the IRS, do not reply or click on any links. Instead, you should report it to the IRS.
Every year, thousands of people lose their money (and valuable personal information) to telephone scams. Typically, phone scammers will try to sell you something you hadn't planned to buy and will pressure you about giving up personal information, like your credit card or Social Security number.
Common Phone Scams
In telemarketing fraud, phone scammers will often use exaggerated--or even fake--prizes, products, and services as bait. Some may call you, but others will use mail, text, or ads to get you to call them for more details. Below are a few examples of "offers" you might get.
Travel packages - "Free" or "low-cost" vacations can end up costing a fortune in hidden costs.
Fake business and investment opportunities - As business and investing can be complicated, scammers take advantage of people not researching the investment.
Charitable causes - Many phone scams involve urgent requests for recent disaster relief efforts.
National Do Not Call List
Avoid phone scams by registering your home and cell phone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry. This national registry was created to offer consumers a choice regarding telemarketing calls. It won't stop all unsolicited calls--but will help stop most.
Report Telephone Fraud
If you believe you have been a victim of a telephone scam or telemarketing fraud, you can file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).