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Don’t be fooled by financial scams

The Federal Trade Commission releases data every year about the total complaints it have received from consumers regarding fraudulent activity.

March 1, the FTC provided a summary of complaints from 2017. This report revealed that although the total number of complaints had decreased from 2016, total money lost from scams actually increased.

Identity theft made up 14 percent of consumer complaints in 2017. The most common type of identity theft reported was credit card fraud – someone opening up a credit card under another person’s name. Imposter scams (where a thief pretends to be a government authority, tech support, or a family member in trouble in order to obtain your personal or financial information) were also prevalent.

According to the Federal Trade Commission’s report, “Consumers in their twenties reported losing money to fraud more often than those over age 70. Just 18 percent of those 70 and older who reported fraud indicated they lost any money.” However, when older adults lost money from scams, the reported loss was usually over $1,000 compared to those under age 30, who lost around $400.

There are some actions you can take to limit your potential losses from identity theft or imposter scams:

• Shred credit card offers or applications that you receive in the mail

• Promptly remove mail from the mailbox; request a vacation hold if you will be out of town for several days

• Opt out of prescreened offers by calling 1-888-567-8688

• Do not give out personal information over the phone or through e-mail unless you have initiated the contact

• Register your phone with the Do Not Call Registry by calling 1-888-382-1222 (most sales calls will stop after one month)

• Place a freeze on your credit report

If you think you might already be a victim, check your credit reports at www.annualcreditreport.com and then consider creating an identity theft report at www.identitytheft.gov. Your identity theft report will be a valuable resource in the event that you need to file a police report at a later time.

Remember, you are your own best protection against financial scams.

Ashley Bales

Ashley Bales

Ashley Bales is a Family Financial Education Specialist headquartered in Madison County.  Her office is located at 137 West Main St., Fredericktown, Missouri. Contact Ashley at 573-783-3303 with questions or comments. MU is an equal opportunity/ADA institution. University of Missouri Extension does not discriminate on the basis of their race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability in employment or in any program or activity.

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