Tip of the Week


July 22, 2020

Hang up on business imposter scams 

Scammers love to use the same old tricks in new ways. One of their favorites is to pose as a business or government official to pressure you into sending them money or personal information. Now, some scammers are pretending to be popular online shopping websites, phishing for your personal information.

For example, you get a call from someone who claims to be with “Amazon.com.” (Spoiler alert: they’re not really from Amazon.) The voice on the phone will say that your credit card has been charged a large amount of money for some order. Then, they’ll give you the “Amazon Support” phone number and tell you to immediately call if you didn’t make that purchase.

If this seems suspicious, that’s because it is. Scammers want you to call the number they give so they can ask for your passwords, credit card number, and other sensitive information to get your money. If you get a call like this, there are a few steps you should take: 

  • Hang up. Don’t call them back on the number they gave you. If you’re concerned about an order you didn’t place, contact the business through a customer service phone number or email you know is legitimate. You can usually find a company’s real information on their website.
  • Check your credit card account. If you see a charge you don’t recognize, file a dispute with your credit card company immediately.
  • Report the fake call to the business. Make sure to use the contact information from their website – not the information from the phone call. You can also report the call to the FTC.

If you gave information to a business imposter, head to www.IdentityTheft.gov for tips to protect yourself. To learn more about imposter scams, visit the FTC’s Imposter Scams page.
Jabari Cook Intern, Division of Consumer & Business Education, FTC

JULY 14 2020

Utility company calling? Don’t fall for it. 

Every day, millions of people who have lost their jobs are making difficult choices about how to pay their bills. As the Coronavirus continues to spread, scammers are taking advantage of people’s heightened economic anxiety. Their latest ploy is posing as representatives from utility companies to dupe people out of their cash and personal information by convincing them their utilities will be shut off if they don’t pay.

If you get a call from someone claiming to be your utility company, here are some things you can do:

  • Thank the caller for the information. Then firmly tell them you will contact the utility company directly using the number on your bill or on the company’s website.

  • Even if the caller insists you have a past due bill or your services will be shut off, never give banking information over the phone unless you place the call to a number you know is legitimate.

  • Utility companies don’t demand banking information by email or phone. And they won’t force you to pay by phone as your only option.

  • If the caller demands payment by gift card, cash reload card, wiring money or cryptocurrency, it is a scam. Legitimate companies don’t demand payment by gift cards (like iTunes or Amazon), cash reload cards (like MoneyPak, Vanilla, or Reloadit), or cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin).

Tell your friends and loved ones about the scam so they can protect themselves. If you got this scam call, others in your community probably did to. We know when people hear about scams, they’re much more likely to avoid them.

Tell the FTC. Your reports help the FTC and our law enforcement partners stop scammers. Jim Kreidler Consumer Education Specialist, FTC


June 29, 2020

COVID mask exemption cards are not from the government 

To help limit the spread of the Coronavirus, many states are requiring people to wear face coverings in places open to the public. But there are cards circulating online and on social media that say the holder has a disability that prevents them from wearing a mask, and that it’s illegal for any business to ask them to disclose their condition. Variations of the card include the seal of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), one of the federal agencies responsible for enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

The fact is, these cards aren’t issued or endorsed by DOJ, or any other federal agency. DOJ urges the public not to rely on the information contained in these postings, and to visit ADA.gov for ADA information issued by the agency.

For information about your rights under the ADA, visit ADA.gov, or call 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TTY).

Want more information about the latest scams we’re seeing? Visit ftc.gov/coronavirus, and sign up for our consumer alerts. And, when you spot a scam, tell the FTC: ftc.gov/complaint. Because you can help us keep working to put a stop to these scams.
– Colleen Tressler Consumer Education Specialist, FTC


June 30. 2020

Spring Crime Prevention Tips
Spring often means an increase in criminal activity. The following tips can help keep you and your home safe.

Roll up your car windows, take any valuables out of your car, and lock your doors every time you exit your vehicle, even if your vehicle is parked in your driveway.

Lock your home at all times. If you are working in the back yard, lock your front door and close and lock your garage door.

Lock the back door when you are in the front yard. Always lock your doors when you leave, even if you only plan to be gone for a few minutes.

Close and lock your home windows and sliding doors when you go to bed or leave the house.

Install motion-activated lights in your front and back yards so when someone approaches your home, the lights automatically come on, illuminating that person.

Store all ladders and other tools into a secure storage area after use. Ladders and other tools can be used by criminals to access your home. Always lock storage units or sheds on your property.

Be aware of home improvement scams. If you did not solicit a contractor or salesman who shows up at your door unannounced, do not do business with that person.

If a utility representative comes to your house, request identification. True representatives will carry identification and they will show it to you. Call their company for verification.

Be a watchful, attentive neighbor to spot criminals and alert police to their presence.

Get involved in your community to help keep your spring happy and safe.


June 1, 2020

KEEP CALM and Avoid Coronavirus Scams 
Here are 5 things you can do to avoid a Coronavirus scam:

  1. Ignore offers for vaccinations and home test kits. 
    Scammers are selling products to treat or prevent COVID-19 without proof that they work.
  2. Hang up on robocalls.
    Scammers use illegal sales call to get your money and your personal information.
  3. Watch out for phishing emails and text messages.
    Don’t click on links in emails or texts you didn’t expect.
  4. Research before you donate.
    Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. Get tips on donating wisely at ftc.gov/charity.
  5. Stay in the know.
    Go to ftc.gov/coronavirus/scams for the latest information on scams. Sign up to get FTC’s alerts at ftc.gov/subscribe.

If you see a scam, report it to ftc.gov/complaint
Federal Trade Commission


MAY 15, 2020

Did a nursing home or assisted living facility take your stimulus check? 

Do you or a loved one live in a nursing home or assisted living facility? Are you (or they) on Medicaid? If you said “yes” to both, please read on and prepare to get mad. We’ve been hearing that some facilities are trying to take the stimulus payments intended for their residents on Medicaid. Then they’re requiring those people to sign over those funds to the facility. Why? Well, they’re claiming that, because the person is on Medicaid, the facility gets to keep the stimulus payment.

But here’s the deal: those economic impact payments are, according to the CARES Act, a tax credit. And tax law says that tax credits don’t count as “resources” for federal benefits programs, like Medicaid. So: when Congress calls these payments “tax credits” in the CARES Act, that means the government can’t seize them. Which means nursing homes and assisted living facilities can’t take that money from their residents just because they’re on Medicaid. And, if they took it already, get in touch with your state attorney general and ask them to help you get it back.

This is not just a horror story making the rounds. These are actual reports that our friends in the Iowa Attorney General’s Office have been getting – and handling. Other states have seen the same.

If you’ve experienced this already, tell your state attorney general’s office first, and then tell the FTC: ftc.gov/complaint. If a loved one lives in a nursing facility and you’re not sure what happened to their payment, talk with them soon. And consider having a chat with the facility’s management to make sure they know which side of the law to be on.

Need more back-up? Then let me get legal on you for a minute. You can go right here to get the federal tax law that says refunds aren’t considered a “resource” in federal benefits programs. And you can click this link to get the Congressional Summary that talks about the funds as tax credits not countable as resources for federal government programs. (It’s on page 3.) And here’s even more helpful information from the National Center on Law & Elder Rights for people who live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Again, though: if this has happened to you or a loved one, find your state attorney general’s office contact information at naag.org and talk with them right away.

Lois Greisman Elder Justice Coordinator, FTC


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