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home : community : community Thursday, August 17, 2017

7/31/2017 1:32:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Why Is It Important To Report Suspected Scams?

By Macy Yang

Technology today makes it much easier for scammers to find their victims. However, online technology, by the same token, also makes it much easier for victims to report scams. Then why do most people not report it? People are reluctant to report scams for many reasons, including shame, lack of ability to do so - due to language barriers, they don't know where to report it, or other reasons - they don't feel safe doing so, they didn't know they've been victimized, or they just want the problem to go away. These are a few examples of why people fail to report scams though most governmental agencies make available an online complaint filing process.

According to the FBI's website on fraud against seniors, seniors are impacted by fraud to a much higher degree and are less likely, compared to other groups, to report a scam or fraud committed against them. Seniors are more susceptible, more trusting, and make poorer witnesses among other reasons, which make them easy targets and less likely to report their victimization. Senior women, especially those living alone, are an even bigger target for scammers.

In counter argument, making a process available online doesn't necessarily make it easier for people to access. For example, seniors, immigrants and people who don't have access to a computer would not be able to file a complaint online, or those who are not technology savvy, or what about those with language barriers who have difficulty understanding the information they need to provide. Most agencies also have a phone number in which consumers can call to file their complaint if they are not able to file the complaint online. "Every complaint matters," says Joannie Wei, Attorney at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). "The FTC relies heavily on the complaints we receive to guide us. We are the nation's consumer protection agency and our goal is to protect consumers from fraud."

How do you know which agency you should report to? There may be agencies that have overlapping jurisdiction depending on the type of scam or fraud involved. Most agencies, however, share the information they collect. The FTC, for example, takes complaints on identity theft, unwanted telemarketing, imposter scams, scams related to prizes, sweepstakes, lotteries and romance scams only to name a few. Reported information may be shared with the FBI, if certain criteria or facts alleged overlap with that agency's jurisdiction. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service accepts fraud complaints when the fraud involves use of the U.S. Post office. Most financial scams are reported to the FBI.

Why is it a best practice for victims to report a scam? According to Wei, "Most federal agencies cannot represent or act on behalf of one individual in a case, but the agency represents the interest of the American public." Wei further states, "The FTC investigates people and companies that are engaged in fraud and bring civil cases against those individuals or companies to stop or shut down those companies. One of the goals is to return as much money as possible to the victims of fraud."

By filing a complaint, the database information helps federal agencies identify fraudulent patterns and trends and those who are engaged in fraud. Wei says, "For example, if there is a spike in complaints about a certain type of scam or against a certain company, etc. that will guide the agency in deciding who to investigate." The information, says Wei, also helps to identify consumer victims because consumers' stories about what happened to them are very important to the cases.

Another reason that consumers should file a complaint, Wei says, "Is that this information is accessible to any federal, state, or local law enforcement agency. The FTC database houses millions of fraud complaints that are helpful to all law enforcement agencies be more effective in trying to stop fraud."

For those who do not want to file a complaint online they can also call the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). This is available for those who speak English or Spanish. Currently, other languages are not available, but a consumer can have someone file on their behalf.

To file a consumer complaint with the FTC visit:

www.ftc.gov

To file a complaint about the services or product that a company has visit:

www.bbb.org

Consumers can get other resources on scams and fraud and reporting agencies by visiting this website link:

https://www.usa.gov/stop-scams-frauds#item-35157

How important it is to talk about scams in your community visit this link:

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/talking-about-and-reporting-scams-fotonovela

Look for more upcoming series in the Hmong Times on consumer scams and fraud schemes.




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