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Column by Rep. Tom Graves: Staying Safe from Scammers
Learn how to protect yourself from scams and fraud

Washington, March 8, 2019 - The following column was featured in the Dalton Daily Citizen during National Consumer Protection Week 2019.

Tom Graves: Staying Safe from Scammers
Dalton Daily Citizen
March 8, 2019

Identity theft, fraudulent business practices and scam artists cost Americans nationwide $1.5 billion last year. In 2018 more than 1 million Americans reported fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), including nearly 100,000 total fraud reports from Georgia consumers. 

This week marks the 21st National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), created by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in partnership with local organizations and advocacy groups. NCPW aims to highlight the tools, resources and tips that consumers can use to keep themselves — and their wallets — safe from fraud. As a member of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, I work closely with the FTC and know how important it is for consumers and families to actively protect themselves against scammers and fraudsters.

When it comes to fraud and identity theft reporting, Georgia’s ranks second nationwide in the number of reports filed in 2018. The most common reports statewide were for identity theft, imposter scams and fraudulent debt collectors. With the nationwide amount lost to fraud and scams up 38 percent over last year and tax filing season upon us, this is an important time of year to learn how to identify warning signs and red flags before it’s too late.

Rates of debt collection fraud rank the highest statewide. While there are legitimate debt collection agencies that may contact you to pay debts or past-due balances, there are also scammers that pose as these agents to steal your money. Some of the key warning signs from the FTC include:  

  • You’re asked to pay through a wire transfer or other method that’s untraceable. 
  • You’re threatened you with jail time. This is against the law. If this happens hang up and report them to the FTC, here
  • The collector refuses to send you a validation notice. By law, collectors are required to send this within five days of contacting you. 

Identify theft and imposter scams are the second-highest type of fraud reported in our state. Especially during tax season, it’s important to recognize possible red flags when it comes to protecting your personal information. State Attorney General Chris Carr highlighted a few key tips earlier this year, shared below:

  • If you get a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS or the Social Security Administration and they are asking you for money or personal information over the phone, it’s a scam. Hang up and report it to the FTC here
  • Law enforcement agencies, the IRS and the Social Security Administration will not ask you to send them money. If you are asked to send money via gift card or another type of untraceable payment, it’s a scam. 
  • If you get an email claiming to be from the IRS, don’t click on any of the links. It could be a phishing scam and should be reported to phishing@irs.gov
  • As added security, Georgia residents can get an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) from the IRS before filing their returns this year. The pin helps to verify your identity when filing your returns, in addition to your social security number. You can learn more about the IP PIN here

Protecting yourself from scams like these seem overwhelming, especially in today’s digital age, but there are key steps you can take to keep your personal information and your hard-earned money safe. The most important thing to remember is that agencies like the FTC, the Georgia Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division and my office are always available assist you with questions or concerns if you are contacted by someone that raises a red flag.

If you have been the victim of a scam, you can report it to the Georgia Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at (404) 651-8600 or consumer.ga.gov. 

You can contact my office with additional ideas and issues of concern through my website at http://tomgraves.house.gov, or by calling one of our three offices located in Dalton, Rome and Washington, D.C.  

U.S. Rep. Tom Graves represents the 14th Congressional District of Georgia, which includes Whitfield and Murray counties. He serves as Republican Leader of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government. 

 

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