There are several criminals seeking to take advantage of newly arrived refugees who may not realize the need to protect their personal information from thieves and other criminals.
The Bhutanese community of Minnesota reports a new variation on a common fraud scheme. Several community members have received phone calls from people claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The callers tell the person who answers that they owe money to the IRS, and if it is not paid immediately, the IRS will freeze their bank account, sue them, and take away their citizenship or other lawful status.
So far, at least three people have been contacted, and one unfortunately sent a money order for $3,000 to these criminals.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is following scam attempts such as these, and encourages anyone contacted with similar scams to report them through the FTC website. Their recently published Consumer Alert provides valuable tips on how to avoid being victimized, and what to do in case you are contacted. They have also set up a new web page, Avoiding Scams Against Immigrants, with information and materials in several languages.
Unfortunately, people are getting hurt by this scam: some refugees are losing thousands of dollars. How can you avoid scams like this?
- Do not give important personal information - or money - to someone you don't know or to someone who contacts you unexpectedly.
- Do not give your personal or financial information to unknown persons who seek payment or solicits charitable contributions: providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
- Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages.
- Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as officials asking for payments or donations, door-to-door, via phone, mail, e-mail or social networking sites.
- If you are a refugee and get a call like this, talk to the case manager at your resettlement agency immediately. Then report it to the Federal Trade Commission online or at 1-877-FTC-HELP.
Information courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission, FTC Consumer Alert
Resettled refugees are once again advised to consult with their local resettlement agencies if someone claiming to represent the government contacts them, especially if there are promises of cash or prizes, or money owed to the federal government. If these scammers call you, please hang up and report the incident to the FTC.
Thursday, 25 September 2014