TDCI, TDHS Recognize Fraud and Financial Abuse Awareness MonthTennessee Ranked 10th in Nation in 2017 for Fraud Reports
NASHVILLE – Identity theft, fraud, and financial abuse are increasingly common ways for scammers to take advantage of Tennessee consumers of all ages. A recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report ranked Tennessee 10th nationally in reports of fraud. Additionally, Tennesseans filed over 43,000 fraud reports totaling over $13.7 million in losses in 2017. Of these reports, 5,586 of were for identity theft. Further, TDHS’ Adult Protective Services (APS) division received more than 4,000 complaints of financial exploitation in fiscal year 2017-2018. That’s more than the year prior and an increase of 33% from state fiscal year 2015-2016.
To raise awareness of the growing problems of fraud and financial abuse, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam declared October 2018 as Fraud and Financial Abuse Awareness Month. In recognition of Governor Haslam’s declaration, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI) and the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) are providing tips to help consumers avoid identity theft, fraud, and financial exploitation.
“Tennessee consumers should remember that scammers are active every day of the year, and they are always looking to harm consumers,” said TDCI Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “While scammers are constantly creating new ways to swindle Tennesseans out of their money, consumers should also educate themselves about ways they can be impacted by scams. Remember: If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Two years ago, TDHS led efforts to establish a Coordinated Community Response (CCR) involving more than 20 state and non-profit agencies that offer protective services for vulnerable adults. This CCR has improved communications and investigations involving victims of financial exploitation and abuse.
“The Coordinated Community Response we’re building ensures stakeholders work together to protect our vulnerable adults,” said TDHS Commissioner Danielle W. Barnes. “We help build a thriving Tennessee when we raise awareness and take action to protect our seniors and adults who are unable to protect themselves from fraud and financial exploitation.”
To help you and your family avoid fraud and financial abuse, TDCI’s Divisions of Consumer Affairs and Securities provide the following tips:
- Order your credit report. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act mandates that each of the major credit bureaus supply consumers with a free copy of their credit report each year. Get your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Know how to spot phishing. Phishing is a technique used by identity thieves to get your sensitive information by pretending to be a website you trust. Phishing schemes are successful because you believe you’re just signing into your bank or credit card account, when it’s really a ploy to get your important information. When logging into these accounts, make sure that you are not being asked for any information that you usually wouldn’t be required to provide to log in.
- Don’t reuse passwords. As tempting as it may be to recycle old passwords, it’s a really good practice to use a different password for every account you access online. By keeping different passwords for different accounts, someone will not be able to access your checking, brokerage, and email accounts if they discover one of your passwords.
- Don’t put private information on public computers. If you’re away from home, make sure not to save private information on a computer used by the public.
- Unfortunately, sometimes identity theft occurs. Once you discover you are the victim of identity theft, you should immediately notify credit bureaus, creditors, and law enforcement about the identity theft. In dealing with authorities and financial institutions, keep a log of all conversations, including dates, times, names, and phone numbers. Confirm your conversations in writing, send correspondence by certified mail and keep copies of all letters and documents.
- Never give money to someone you don’t know. Even if you’ve talked with them online or via telephone, they may not be who they say they are.
- Protect your digital wallet like you would physical wallet. Check the account frequently to ensure there are no surprise charges.
- If you get a call claiming to be from the IRS or from law enforcement threatening arrest if you do not respond, hang up and do not call back. Remember: The IRS always initiates contact through mail and law enforcement will not call ahead to alert you of a warrant.
- ID “spoofing” deceives consumers into unwittingly answering a phone call that they might not normally answer. Criminals using Caller ID cloaking technology can mask their real phone numbers, causing a consumer’s own phone number (or the phone number of a loved one) to appear on your phone’s Caller ID.
- When an unsuspecting consumer answers the phone, the scammers will then attempt to defraud consumers with a host of schemes (card services scams, medical alert device scams, among others) all designed to cheat consumers. Don’t answer the phone if your number appears on your phone’s Caller ID. If you do answer the call, do not give out your personal or financial information. Hang up.
- If your accounts have been compromised, implement a fraud alert or credit freeze with one of the three credit bureaus. This service is free and may be included if credit monitoring is provided post-breach.
- Beware of high pressure tactics. Say no to any person who presses you to make an immediate investment decision. You need time to do your own research. Any ethical salesperson will understand this. Don't buy securities offered in unsolicited telephone calls or through cold calls. Ask for information in writing.
- Keep in mind that good manners don't indicate personal integrity. Con artists are generally extremely polite, knowing that many of us equate courtesy with personal integrity. Swindlers are also counting on your good manners to keep you from cutting them off. Be skeptical of guarantees or promises of quick profits. Don't let your good manners land you in trouble; simply hang up if you don't like the conversation.
- Watch out for salespeople who prey on your fears.
- It is common for swindlers to pitch their schemes as a way to eliminate your financial fears for the future. Be aware that fear and greed can cloud your good judgment. A guarantee of massive profits could be a danger signal. Remember: the higher the expected return, the higher the risk involved.
- Check out the person touting investment deals.
- Tennessee law requires most securities to be registered or to have filed notice, in the case of federally covered securities. Also, the persons selling them are usually required to be registered at both the federal and state levels. Check on the registration requirements and registration status of any offerings, firms, and or individuals with the Tennessee Securities Division before you invest by calling toll free at 800-863-9117.
For more tips on being a savvy consumer and investor, visit tn.gov/commerce.