The Federal Trade Commission and the Colorado Attorney General’s office held a media briefing last week at the Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Public Library in west Denver, to outline ways that consumers can protect themselves from fraud.
Last year, scam artists took more than $10 million from Colorado residents, and the state ranks 19th nationally in the number of fraud complaints.
José Vasquez, supervising attorney with Colorado Legal Services Consumer Law Unit in Denver, says new forms of communication have opened new doors for people looking to take your money.
“Internet scams, with social media scams. More than ever, I think, consumers have to be extremely vigilant,” says Vasquez. “If they are being threatened by somebody on the phone or by somebody sending a letter, I think they need to stop before they take any action.”
Vasquez says common complaints include people posing as IRS agents who threaten criminal prosecution if people don’t send money. And he says some debt-collection procedures, where people aren’t properly served with notice of lawsuits, can destroy credit ratings and lead to collectors tapping their bank accounts and paychecks.
Unscrupulous operators also have targeted vulnerable populations, demanding payment in order to correct immigration documentation. Colorado residents can sign up to get alerts on the latest scams at “stopfraudcolorado.gov”
Kerry O’Brien, assistant regional director for the Federal Trade Commission’s western region, says scam artists have even impersonated FTC officials to target previous victims of fraud to get even more money out of them. O’Brien says a big concern is that new schemes might slip under the radar because many communities don’t feel safe reaching out to government agencies.
“File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, you can do that either online or just give us a call,” says O’Brien. “And that way we know what’s going on out there, and hopefully can take steps to prevent it in the future.”
O’Brien says identity theft continues to be a big problem. To protect personal information, she recommends shredding documents such as bank statements, using strong passwords online and not giving out your Social Security number.
O’Brien adds it’s also important to check monthly statements and your credit reports for signs of theft. If you think you have been a victim, she says you can begin the recovery process at identitytheft.gov.
Public News Service – CO
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