Bitter cold weather, rising unemployment and COVID-19 vaccines have opened the door for scammers to try their luck with trending topics. One scam making the rounds have criminals targeting people signing up for healthcare through HealthCare.gov. Tap or click here for steps to protect yourself.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has also been the victim of several scams. Hackers created a fake website claiming to be the U.S. Trading Commission, where it promises victims compensation if their personal data has ever been stolen.
Using every avenue available, criminals are now changing tactics by running several scams that promise people prizes or lottery winnings. Keep reading for details on the latest scams circulating to stay ahead of the thieves.
Here’s the backstory
As millions more Americans file for unemployment, scammers are targeting the financially vulnerable. Prize and lottery scams aren’t new, but there has been an increase in their occurrences, perhaps pointing out that people fall for it.
1. Prize and lottery scams
The FTC says these scams can originate in many ways, but they typically begin with a phone call. The scammer will claim that you won a prize in a sweepstake or that you have a winning lottery ticket. They might even claim they are from a government agency.
But here is their hook: they tell you that the only way for you to claim your prize is to pay a small amount upfront. Baiting people into thinking it’s legitimate is how they steal your money. If you receive a call like that, hang up the phone and block the number.
Here are a few FTC tips to keep in mind about prize and lottery scams:
- Don’t pay that fee – Legitimate contests don’t ask you to pay a fee or give your bank account or credit card number to get your prize.
- Beware of payment requests – Never send money by wire transfer, gift card, or cryptocurrency. Anyone who asks you to pay for things that way is a scammer.
- Never trust caller ID – Scammers can make it look like they’re calling from anywhere with spoofed numbers.
2. The DEA isn’t calling
Receiving a call from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) can be a scary experience. While it can happen, most of the time, it is part of a scam. The FTC has noted an increase in calls from scammers pretending to be DEA agents, who then demand money or personal information from their victims.
“The scammers use fake names and badge numbers. Sometimes they use the names of real DEA agents and may even text photos of what look like legitimate law enforcement credentials. They may have information about you, like part or all your Social Security number (SSN),” warns the FTC in a blog post.
The scammers can even produce a National Provider Identifier number or state license number when targeting doctors or medical practitioners to sound more convincing.
According to the DEA, “There are variations in the false narrative, among them, that the target’s name was used to rent a vehicle that was stopped at the border and contained a large quantity of drugs. The caller then has the target verify their social security number or tells the target their bank account has been compromised.
‘In some cases, the caller threatens the target with arrest for the fictional drug seizure and instructs the person, over the phone, to send money via gift card or wire transfer to pay a ‘fine’ or to assist with the investigation or with resetting the bank account.”
To avoid falling victim, here are some ways to spot these scammers:
- The caller may use an urgent and aggressive tone, refusing to speak to or leave a message with anyone other than their targeted victim.
- They threaten arrest, prosecution, imprisonment, and, in the case of medical practitioners and pharmacists, revocation of their DEA registration.
- A caller demands thousands of dollars via wire transfer or in the form of untraceable gift card numbers the victim is told to provide over the phone.
- They ask for personal information, such as a Social Security number or date of birth.
- The caller references National Provider Identifier numbers and/or state license numbers when calling a medical practitioner. They also may claim that patients are making accusations against that practitioner.
If you receive a call like that, hang up immediately. You can contact your local authorities to check the credentials of any agent. If it is not a scam, agents will come to your house.
The DEA wants you to know, “DEA personnel will never contact members of the public or medical practitioners by telephone to demand money or any other form of payment.
‘It will never request personal or sensitive information over the phone and will only notify people of a legitimate investigation or legal action in person or by official letter. In fact, no legitimate federal law enforcement officer will demand cash or gift cards from a member of the public.”
Anyone receiving a call from a person claiming to be with DEA should report the incident to the FBI at www.ic3.gov. The FTC provides recovery steps, shares information with more than 3,000 law enforcement agencies and takes reports at reportfraud.ftc.gov.
Any victims who have given personally identifiable information like a Social Security number to the caller can find out how to protect against identity theft at www.identitytheft.gov.