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home : community : community Wednesday, May 22, 2019

7/9/2017 10:13:00 AM Email this articlePrint this article 
Top Fraud Scams To Watch Out For

By Macy Yang

Fraud has become an increasingly widespread problem, but if you know what the common fraud scams are, you are less likely to become a victim of fraud. "Many scams do disproportionately impact the immigrant communities, and non-native speakers," says Joannie Wei, Attorney at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Among the various scams, according to Wei, when scams target specific communities, the perpetrators often are members of the same community.

For the first time, imposter fraud surpasses identity theft according to the FTC's complaint database. Debt collection scam is the top scam and identity theft is third. A variation of imposter scams exists, says Wei, but the main characteristic is that the scammer pretends to be someone else when committing the fraud. The scammer may pretend to be a family member, government agent - the most common is an IRS agent, computer technician, or someone else. Threat of arrest or deportation or some sad story that appeals to the victim's emotion is often used to get the victim to act right away. Doing so, means getting the victim to send money to the scammer. According to the FTC, of those victimized by scams, 58% reported using wire transfers as their method of payment and 77% were contacted by phone, the most common method reported.

Several years ago, "Tong" received an email from a wealthy Nigerian family running from the government. The family claimed they were going to be persecuted because of their political beliefs. Tong, a victim of the "Nigerian Scam," does not want to be identified, but was willing to share his story with Hmong Times. The "Nigerian Scam" got its name because of its origin, offers the victim a share in a large amount of money on the promise you help transfer money in or out of their country.

The husband, a Nigerian native, escaped from Nigeria to England and wants to smuggle his wife and child out of the country, but to do so, he needs to send money to pay a group of people to help him do that. The husband solicited Tong's assistance by email. Tong was to wire money from America to Nigeria so that it cannot be traced to the husband in England. In return, Tong would get paid a large amount of money for his help.

A $10,000 check was sent to Tong, which he deposited, withdrew, and wired to a named person in Nigeria with success. A few days later, Tong was again contacted by email and he was to wire $50,000. He had to do this quickly because the man's wife and child were held hostage and would likely be killed by the group that was supposed to help smuggle the family out unless they got more money. The husband didn't have time to send the check because of the urgent situation, so he asked Tong to send his own money and wait for a check afterwards. Tong didn't have that kind of money so he borrowed from friends and family. After wiring the $50,000, Tong, did in fact, got a check for $50,000, which he said he deposited into his account. Shortly thereafter, Tong received a letter from his bank stating that both checks were returned. Tong had no recourse against the scammer and Tong's emails went unanswered. The bank was after Tong for $10,000 and his family and friends were after him for $50,000.

Tong believed the scammer because the story closely paralled his own life experience as a refugee running from the Lao government, and living in fear of persecution. All he wanted to do was help this family.

Another scam, Wei says, the IRS imposter scam is a huge problem and the FTC receives a lot of complaints. In this scam, an individual will get a prerecorded call stating that they owe back taxes to the IRS. Consumers are threatened with arrest or deportation, or that they will get their license revoked unless the individual pays. The real IRS, says Wei, will contact you about unpaid taxes by mail, not by phone. The IRS will never ask that payment be made by a prepaid debt card, wire transfers or by gift card - payments that are untraceable.

Most scams don't care who you are, i.e. your social economic level, education level, ethnicity or gender, scammers cross the line and target everyone and anyone they can. The FTC has identified two scams in which seniors are disproportionately targeted. The so called, "Grandparent Scam" excessively impacts the senior community to a high degree, says Wei. Scammers call pretending to be a grandchild in need of emergency money and requests the grandparent send the money right away. "Seniors are also impacted by the 'Prize Scam' more than any other group. In this scam, someone calls, emails, or writes, and claims to be a government official or from a government agency. The person tells you you've won a prize and asks you to send some money (usually by wire transfer) to cover 'processing fees' or something similar," says Wei.

Tech scammers try to get consumers by phone or via a pop-up on a computer to contact the scammer. According to Wei, the scammer claims to be someone from or affiliated with, a known tech company such as Microsoft or Apple, and claims that your computer has a virus or other malware that needs fixing. The threat of losing all their data prompts the individual to pay to have their computer fixed.

In each of these scenarios, the scammer creates a state of urgency that prompts the consumer to act or respond quickly to a non-existent situation. Scammers typically ask for money upfront for services, but it is illegal to do in some situations. Most of these scams can be avoided if the victim takes their time to check out the call, think about the situation, or call the agency directly rather than to the number the scammer provides. If you are faced with any of these or other similar situations, be aware that these are signs of a scam.

This is a continuing series in a Hmong Times report on consumer scams and fraud schemes.

St. Paul, MN



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