Black, Latino consumers targeted most by scammers

DIANE XAVIER | 11/8/2017, 6:18 p.m.
Buyers beware: Scammers are on the hunt. In 2016, U.S. consumers lost $744 million dollars through fraud, according to recent ...

The Dallas Examiner

Buyers beware: Scammers are on the hunt. In 2016, U.S. consumers lost $744 million dollars through fraud, according to recent data compiled by the Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC’s Consumer Fraud Survey also reported that 25.6 million people in this country are fraud victims, which is 10.8 percent of U.S. adults.

The study revealed that the African American community is one of the most vulnerable populations affected by fraud. Moreover, African American and Latino consumers are more likely to be fraud victims than non-Hispanic Whites, according to the survey.

In order to address this issue, the FTC has been working with Congress on finding strategies and solutions to help reduce fraud for consumers by working with law enforcement, participating in consumer outreach and educating the community.

One of the initiatives the FTC participated in to make the public aware of scammers and who they are targeting was an ethnic media telebriefing and teleconference hosted by New American Media and the FTC titled Consumer Fraud, which was held Oct. 12.

Monica Vaca, assistant director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, led the briefing.

The report’s summary indicated that scammers are ingenious and always looking for new ways to cheat people out of money, draining millions of dollars from the community. The telebriefing discussed what the nation’s trending scams are, how to spot a scam and how scammers are targeting certain communities.

Vaca said the study that the FTC has on file is based on what consumers are reporting to the commission.

“In 2016, debt collection was the number one complaint that consumers made to the FTC; that was followed by imposter scams and identity theft,” Vaca said.

Vaca stated that the FTC got close to 3 million reports from around the country in the prior year regarding scams.

“The way we get complaints is by people reporting scams and other complaints by visiting our website, FTC.gov/complaint, or they call us at 1-877-FTC-HELP, or we get letters,” she said. “But a lot of people also report scams through other entities. The Better Business Bureau sends us reports, state attorney general offices send us some, (and) even private entities like MoneyGram.”

Vaca then described how a consumer would go about making a complaint against a scamming entity. She stated the consumer would discuss the subject of the complaint, what happened to them, how much money was lost if they lost any money in the process, the company or person that contacted them and a narrative of what happened.

“These reports are not verified, so what these reports don’t tell us is how particular groups fall for these scams,” Vaca said. “They do tell us a lot about consumer experience in the marketplace.”

Debt collection was the top complaint received to the FTC, followed by imposter scams and identity theft.

“Imposter scams continue to grow, and it is the number one complaint we received from military consumers,” Vaca said. “There are lots of government imposters claiming to be from the IRS. If somebody calls you and says you owe taxes that you never paid and that you may be fined or you may go to prison if you don’t pay it, they might ask for an immediate payment maybe by a wire transfer or maybe by loading up a prepaid card (and) then giving them a number to retrieve the money, but of course the caller is not from the IRS, the imposter is pretending to be calling from the IRS, your caller ID might even say IRS or even show a Washington, D.C., number. The imposter might be saying they are calling from Medicare or he may even send a prize, but first you have to pay taxes to get your money. This is what imposter scams are. This is what they do and this is what they look like.”