Identify and Report Scams and Frauds

Learn how to identify and report frauds and scams.

Equifax Data Breach

Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting agencies in the U.S., announced a data breach that affects 143 million consumers. The hackers accessed Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers.

Equifax has launched a tool that will let you know if you were affected by the breach. Visit Equifax’s website dedicated to this breach to learn if you were impacted. You will need to provide your last name and the last six numbers of your Social Security number.

If you are impacted, Equifax offers you a free credit monitoring service, TrustedIDPremier. However, you won’t be able to enroll in it immediately. You will be given a date when you can return to the site to enroll. Equifax will not send you a reminder to enroll. Mark that date on your calendar, so you can start monitoring your credit as soon as possible.

If you detect suspicious activity on your credit report due to the breach, learn how to report it immediately.

The FTC also offers more information to protect yourself after a data breach. Learn how to report and recover from identity theft at IdentityTheft.gov.

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Most Popular Scams

Get the information you need to protect yourself from being a victim of the latest scam tactics:   

  • Advance fee scams - Don't fall for claims that you have won a lottery, prize, or can invest in a great opportunity, if you have to pay a small fee in advance.
  • Chain letters - These letters promise to help you get rich quickly if you participate and forward the letter on to your friends and family.
  • Charity scams - Scammers take advantage on your willingness to help people in need and charitable causes. They may collect your donation and keep it for themselves instead of using it to help those in need.
  • Coupon scams - Coupons can be a helpful way to save money on your purchases. But beware of illegitimate offers.
  • Dating scams - Scammers may create fake profiles on online dating sites and express interest in you, just so he or she can convince you to send them money.
  • Debt relief scams - Some scammers hope that you are as eager to get rid of your debt as they are to scam you out of your money. Know the warning signs so you won't be their next victim.
  • Free security scans - Don't be tricked by messages on your computer screen that claim that your machine is already infected with a virus. The realistic, but phony, security alerts exploit your fear of online viruses and security threats.
  • Government grant scams - Despite ads that say you qualify for a government grant, these are often scams. Be wary of responding to offers, email, or claims that use government agency names.
  • Health product scams - Be wary of trusting all claims. Take time to get the facts about a product first.
  • International financial scams - A variety of scams offer entries into foreign lotteries or international investment opportunities.
  • IRS-related scams - Be careful with email that is supposedly from the IRS. Scammers try to gain access to your financial information in order to steal your identity and assets.
  • Job scams - Be wary if you have to pay money or supply your credit card number to a company to apply for a job. Some scammers make big promises with work at home opportunities, but these may require you to engage in illegal activities.
  • Jury duty scams - Someone calls pretending to be a court official who threatens that a warrant has been issued for your arrest because you failed to show up for jury duty.
  • Mass Mailing Fraud - You receive a letter promising wealth or good fortune. 
  • Military romance scams - Someone falsely claims to be a member of the U.S. military, stationed in a combat zone. This false soldier gets in an online relationship with someone on social media or a dating website, and asks for money for fake service-related expenses.  
  • Phantom debt scams - Beware of letters and calls, supposedly from "debt collectors" or "court officials". These scammers make threatening claims requiring you to pay money that you don't owe.  
  • Pyramid schemes - These investments offer big profits, but really aren't based on revenue from selling products. Instead, they depend on the recruitment of more investors.
  • Scams that use the names of the FBI or CIA - Avoid falling victim to email schemes involving unsolicited email supposedly sent by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and/or Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The email appears to be sent from email addresses such as mail@fbi.gov, post@fbi.gov, admin@fbi.gov, and admin@cia.gov.
  • Service members or veteran scams - Scammers target bogus offers of government resources or financial services to trick active duty military personnel and veterans out of their money.
  • Smishing, vishing, and phishing - All three of these scams rely on you replying to an email, phone call or text with personal information, such as your bank account or credit card numbers.
  • Social Security imposter scams - Someone calls you, posing as a Social Security investigator. This person claims that there is a problem with your social security account. They then tell you to call another number to resolve the problem. 
  • Subpoena scams - Scammers send bogus email, supposedly from a U.S. District Court, stating that you have to come to court. These messages are fake and may contain links that are harmful to your computer.
  • Tech support scams - Scammers pretend that there is a problem with your computer and then try to convince you to pay them to fix it.
  • Text message spam - Not only can text message spam be annoying and cost you money on your mobile phone bill, but the messages are often for scams.

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Report Frauds and Scams

There are many different types of fraud and each may be reported differently. First, report the fraud to your local police department. You may also contact your state regulators (for example, consumer protection office) to report fraud. Violations of federal laws should be reported to the federal agency responsible for enforcement. While federal agencies are rarely able to act on behalf of individuals, they use complaints to record patterns of abuse which allow an agency to take action against a company or industry. If you suspect fraud, take these steps:

If you report a fraud promptly, you improve your chances of recovering what you have lost. It also helps law enforcement authorities stop scams before other people become victims.

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Report Suspected Tax Fraud

If you suspect or know of an individual or business not complying with the tax laws, you can report tax fraud to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). After reporting federal tax fraud, you may be eligible to claim a Whistleblower Informant Award. To report state tax fraud, contact your state’s department of revenue or other tax authority.  

Tax-related identity (ID) theft is another form of tax fraud. It happens when someone uses your stolen Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Get tips on avoiding tax ID theft and learn the steps to report it.

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Last Updated: September 19, 2017

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