New Initiatives Expand Language Accessibility, Addressing a 30% Surge in Consumer Fraud Losses and Empowering Diverse Communities to Recognize and Report Scams
By JR Holguin
BROOKLYN, NY — A recent briefing by the Ethnic Media Services and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) revealed significant steps in the FTC’s fraud combat strategies, primarily focusing on overcoming language barriers. Monica Vaca, Deputy Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, and Larissa Bungo, Senior Attorney of the Division of Consumer and Business Education, presented these crucial initiatives.
Vaca highlighted the FTC’s new ability to process fraud reports in several languages, including Arabic, Korean, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Somali, Tagalog, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.
“This expansion is vital, as scammers increasingly use diverse languages,” said Vaca. She emphasized the need for such measures, stating, “Effective case handling and educational outreach depend on our awareness of the scams.”
She elaborated on the FTC’s longstanding efforts to curb fraud, deception, and unfair practices through enforcement and education. Vaca noted that the enhanced language capabilities of the FTC’s call center and Consumer Sentinel Network would substantially extend their reach. “These reports enhance our understanding of how scams affect various communities and help us issue timely warnings,” she added.
Vaca also mentioned that consumers can report fraud and identity theft in their preferred language, a feature that enhances the FTC’s capacity to track and respond to diverse scam trends.
Bungo discussed the FTC’s efforts to provide multilingual public education. The FTC’s website now offers guidance in 12 languages to assist in recognizing, avoiding, and reporting scams. Bungo underscored resources aimed at immigrants, refugees, and small business owners. “These tools, available at ftc.gov/languages, empower communities to recognize and report scams,” she stated.
Vaca and Bungo encouraged community engagement with these resources, underscoring the importance of collective vigilance in safeguarding against fraud.
FTC Reports Surge in Consumer Fraud Losses in 2022
The FTC has reported a concerning rise in consumer fraud, with losses nearing $8.8 billion in 2022, a 30% increase from the previous year. Investment scams, causing losses of over $3.8 billion, were the most damaging, followed by imposter scams at $2.6 billion.
The FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network, collecting data from consumers, law enforcement, and other sources, received reports from 2.4 million consumers, mainly regarding imposter and online shopping scams. The network recorded over 5.1 million reports in 2022, including identity theft and other consumer-related issues.
How To Recognize and Respond to Phone Scams
Recognizing Phone Scams:
Phone scams can be deceptive, but they often share common tactics. Be cautious if you encounter the following scenarios:
- False Prize Claims: If you’re told you’ve won a prize or lottery but must pay to claim it, it’s a scam.
- Threats of Legal Action: Scammers may pose as law enforcement or government agencies, threatening arrest or deportation unless you pay alleged debts. Real agencies do not operate this way.
- Pressure to Decide Immediately: Legitimate businesses usually provide time and written information before requiring a decision. Don’t be rushed into making on-the-spot commitments.
- Suspicious Payment Methods: Be wary if asked to pay via wire transfer, gift cards, or other untraceable methods. Such requests are hallmarks of scams.
- Requests for Sensitive Information: Never give out personal details like your Social Security number to unsolicited callers, even if they claim to be from a trusted agency.
Common Phone Scams:
Scammers use various methods, including:
– Imposter Scams: Callers pretend to be trusted figures using fake caller ID information.
– Debt Relief and Credit Repair Scams: Offers to fix credit for upfront fees.
– Business and Investment Scams: Promises of guaranteed business or investment profits.
– Charity Scams: Requests for donations, particularly after disasters.
– Extended Car Warranties and “Free” Trials: Offers that lead to unanticipated charges.
– Loan Scams: Guarantees of loans or credit cards for a fee.
– Prize and Lottery Scams: Claims of prizes requiring payment for taxes or fees.
– Travel and Timeshare Scams: Offers low-cost vacations or timeshare sales with hidden costs.
Stopping Scam Calls:ft
- Hang Up: Don’t engage with suspicious callers. Avoid pressing any numbers on robocalls.
- Use Call Blocking: Employ call blocking or labeling services offered by your phone carrier or third-party apps.
- Don’t Trust Caller ID: Caller ID can be spoofed; don’t assume the displayed information is accurate.
Responding If You’ve Paid a Scammer:
Act quickly for the best chance of recovering your money:
– Credit/Debit Card Payments: Contact your bank for a chargeback.
– Gift Card or Reload Card Payments: Report to the card issuer immediately.
– Wire Transfers: Contact the wire service company to report the fraud and request a reversal.
– Money Transfer Apps: Reach out to the app’s support team. If linked to a card or bank, contact them first.
– Computer Access: Update security software and run a scan.
– Compromised Personal Information: Change passwords and monitor your credit report.
Your reports aid in identifying and stopping scammers and contribute to broader call-blocking efforts. They also help law enforcement in taking action against illegal callers.
To report fraud, visit ReportFraud.ftc.gov or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).