with John Breyault of the National Consumers League
Posted Jul 21, 2017
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Each year, American consumers lose an estimated $50 billion to fraud, with internet merchandise scams topping the list. What are some of today's top scams and what can you do to fight fraud
John Breyault of the National Consumers League?and Fraud.org details some of the today's top scams, and what you can do to stay ahead of the scammers. In part 2, learn a bit more about scammers and who they target as victims.
Interview recorded June 14, 2017.
Traynham: Is there a particular person and/or profile that these scammers go after? Is it an older person, perhaps maybe someone that is down on their luck?
Traynham: And so perhaps, if they win a million dollars, they feel like they've hit the jackpot literally and figuratively?
Breyault: Sure. Well, there's no one profile for fraud victims. That's actually a myth we're trying to dispel. Certainly, there are some types of people who may get vulnerable to certain types of scams, so, for example, imposture scams. This is where someone calls you or e-mails you and says they're somebody you know, like a grandchild, for example, and they're stuck somewhere and they need you to send them money. This was known originally as the "grandparent scam" because we saw a lot of older consumers getting those calls and being targeted. And, certainly, while they're vulnerable, anyone can fall victim to any kind of fraud. So I think it's important, whether you're old, young, whether you live in a rural area or an urban area, rich or poor, that you learn to spot the warning signs of these scams and avoid them.
Traynham: John, where can one go to get more information to educate themselves about some of these warning signs that you talk about?
Breyault: Right. So, I would tell consumers to go to fraud.org. That's a consumer-education website that we run at the National Consumers League, and it's a clearinghouse for consumer-education content about scams of all types. And every article we have on there, we try to include tips and tricks, red flags to watch out for so that consumers can understand how these scams work. Also, when you're there, you can file a complaint. So we have a secure online complaint form that we take information that you share with us, and you can share as much or as little as you like. And then we give that information to a network of more than 200 law-enforcement and consumer-protection agencies who can and do investigate these crimes -- because it is a crime -- and hopefully put some of these fraudsters behind bars.
Traynham: John, I'm curious. How do you learn about these scams? It seems like it's always evolving. How do you -- Maybe you don't want to mention too many of your tactics, but do you pose as victims yourselves so that you kind of learn from literally other scammers out there?
Breyault: So, as I said, the biggest way that we learn about these scams is from consumers themselves.
Traynham: I see.
Breyault: So the complaints that we receive from consumers, they give us a window into how the scammers are thinking. So I'll give you a great example. Last year, we saw an uptick in consumers who were reporting that they were paying with iTunes gift cards. And we had never heard this before. We thought, "Is this a glitch of some sort?" But, no, it turns out the scammers had realized that there is a market for iTunes gift-card numbers in East Asia and other countries. And so they were asking consumers who were paying for scams -- it could be a sweepstakes scam I talked about or a merchandise scam -- to pay by putting money onto a gift card and then giving the scammer the number off the back. And we saw an increase in those scams, so what we did was we put out a fraud alert. And that's another great reason for consumers to come to fraud.org. They can sign up for our fraud alerts, which is a monthly alert where we take new trends that we're seeing in our complaint data --
Traynham: And push it out.
Breyault: And push it out to them so that they can stay one step ahead of the scammers.
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