Looking for love online? The Consumer Assistance Program is here to help you make sure that your personal information and money are secure!
it works: The scammer creates a fake profile on a dating site or app. They
may also initiate contact through Instagram, Facebook, Words With Friends, or
Google Hangouts. Then, the scammer strikes up a relationship with their victim,
gains their trust, and maintains sustained contact.
Spotting the scam: The scammer spins a story and asks you to
send them personal information or money. They may ask you to send gift cards,
mail cash, or wire them money via Western Union or MoneyGram.
What to do: End all communications with the scammer. Block the
individual and/or report them to the website or app company. Do not send money
or reveal personal information such as: social security number, bank accounts,
credit card numbers, photo of your driver’s license, etc. If you have sent
money or given the scammer access to sensitive information, call the Consumer
How it works: You receive an email from an unknown source. The message
claims that they know your passwords and have planted malware on your computer.
They claim that the malware has captured evidence of all your computer activity
– including sensitive photos or visits to adult websites. They threaten to share this evidence with all
of your email or social media contacts. The scammer demands hush money in the
form of gift cards, Bitcoin, or wire transfers.
Spotting the scam: The message might look generic and have numerous typos. They demand that you respond quickly, maybe within 24 hours. The passwords they claim to have appear to be old or may be log-in information you use for a website.
What to do: Do not reply to the message. Do not send money or
personal information. Change your passwords to ensure your online security,
especially if a website you use has recently experienced a data breach. Do not
click on any links or attachments on the email. Make sure that your antivirus
software is up to date.
Adult Website Pop-Ups
How it works: You are visiting an adult website when a pop-up message
appears. The pop-up might be flashing or include sound. The pop-up may claim to
be “Windows Support” or state that “Your computer may have a virus!” It is
designed to pressure the user into a sense of panic. The message might prompt
you to call someone for technical assistance.
Spotting the scam: Real computer tech support specialists will
never ask you to call them in this manner. The pop-up may demand immediate
action, payment, or prompt you to download something.
What to do: Turn off
your computer and disconnect from the internet. Make sure that your antivirus
software is up to date and functioning. If necessary, you may decide to seek
out assistance from a trusted tech support professional.
Remember: some scammers are betting that topics of romance and sex can be sensitive or even embarrassing. Please don’t let these feelings keep you from calling CAP to get help! The reality is that we regularly hear from consumers who have been affected by these scams. Pick up the phone and give us a call if you feel you may have been scammed:1-800-649-2424.
According to the United
States Census Bureau, the
Census counts every resident in the United States. Mandated by the
Constitution, the Census takes place every 10 years. The data collected by the Census
determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of
Representatives and is used to distribute billions in federal funds to local
communities (U.S. Census Bureau).
“The Census asks questions of people in homes and group living situations, including how many people live or stay in each home, and the sex, age and race of each person. The goal is to count everyone once, only once, and in the right place.” – U.S. Census Bureau
Why should I complete
Federal funds, grants and state support are based on
population totals collected by the census. The federal money is spent on
schools, infrastructure, hospitals, and many other programs. Businesses,
developers, and local governments also use census data (U.S. Census Bureau).
Know the facts.
According to the Federal
Trade Commission, the Census Bureau will start mailing out (and, in
some areas, hand delivering) invitations to participate in the 2020 Census in mid-March. You should receive your
invitation by April 1. You can
respond to the Census: online, by phone, or by mail (FTC).
The Census asks:
how many people are in the home at the time you complete the form; their sex,
age, race, ethnicity; their relationships to one another; phone number; and
whether you own or rent the home (FTC).
Scammers may pose as census workers
to steal your personal information, which can be used to commit identity theft.
you are visited by a census worker in-person, they must show a photo-ID. If you
would like, the census worker may also provide you with their supervisor’s
official contact information and the phone number to a regional office (FTC).
Census will never ask for: your
Social Security number, bank account or credit card numbers, passwords, money
or donations, or anything on behalf of a political party. Note: the 2020 Census
will not ask citizenship status (FTC).
Census Bureau may call you to follow up, or they might call if a census worker
visited your home while you were away. To verify the call, use the
Census Bureau website (FTC).
“Who are you and what is the name of this charity?” “Where is the charity located?” “How would my donation be used?” “Are you a paid fundraiser?”
Tip #2: Learn about Paid Fundraisers
Some charities hire paid fundraising companies to help them solicit donations. In Vermont, any charity using a paid fundraiser must register with the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, and report how much of the donations received go to the fundraiser. Visit the Attorney General’s website to learn more and access donation information, or call the Consumer Assistance Program: 800-649-2424
Tip #3: Spot the Scam
Scammers use phone calls, mailings,
door-to-door solicitations, and emails to trick people into “donating” to their
Phone calls: Scammers will pressure you to give money right away. They might ask you to send cash or wire money, and they will not give many details about what the donation is for.
Mailings: You might receive a letter in the mail thanking you for a pledge you never made. This is a signal that the mailer is a scam. If you receive a mailer that you’re unsure about, do your homework by searching online, or call the Consumer Assistance Program.
Door-to-door: When someone knocks on your door to ask for a donation, the pressure is on. Remember that you are under no obligation to give. Ask for more information and do your research. If you cannot get legitimate information about the charity, odds are it is a scam.
Emails: Think before you click! Phishing emails look similar to messages from legitimate sources and use email addresses that seem familiar. Be cautious with suspicious emails and call a charity directly if you have questions. Don’t use a phone number on the suspicious email; look it up separately.
Some common charity scams in
Pastor imposter scams: a scammer posing as a local religious leader asks you to donate to a cause using gift cards via email.
Fire or police organization imposter scams: a scammer calls asking for donations to a local or national first responder organization. If you get a suspicious solicitation, hang up the phone and call your local firefighter or police station to get more information.
Disaster scams: Scammers ask you to donate to a charity that provides relief for people who have experience natural disasters, except the charity doesn’t exist or they are impersonating a real charity. Always do your research before giving money or personal information.
Tip #4: Call the Consumer Assistance Program!
If you feel unsure about a charity
solicitation or believe you have donated to a scam, call the Consumer
Assistance Program! The Consumer Assistance Program can help identify warning
signs, provide paid fundraiser information, and help you recover from scams.
“Nationally, of the 60+ age cohort, 1 in 10 adults experience some form of mistreatment each year.” National Center on Elder Abuse
“For every case of reported elder abuse, neglect or exploitation, about 23 instances go unreported.” VT Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Aging and Independent Living
Elder abuse occurs in many forms: physical
abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, neglect, abandonment and financial
exploitation. Elder abuse can occur in any setting and can be by a person
or entity. There could be a preexisting relationship of trust—and in most
cases victims know their abuser—or a connection can be new.
Each of us can play an important role in preventing elder abuse. The first step is recognizing and identifying signs of abuse. These steps are outlined by the Attorney General’s Elder Protection Initiative and the Department of Aging and Independent Living in this linked release commemorating World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
Knowing how to contact the agencies and organizations that can assist is essential to eliminating elder abuse. To simplify the reporting process, the following is a list of resources.
Suspected elder abuse, neglect or exploitation, including financial exploitation
If you are still not sure who to contact, call United Ways of Vermont 2-1-1 information and referral hotline (dial 211 or 802-652-4636). They are a great resource, connecting Vermonters to organizations and agencies. They have committed to enhancing their referral work specifically for calls related to elder abuse and exploitation.
We can all commit to ending elder abuse by serving those in our communities that may be preyed upon. Here, at the Consumer Assistance Program, to help prevent financial exploitation in scams, we distribute scam alerts and encourage recipients to share the information with friends, neighbors and loved ones. Anyone can sign up by calling us at 800-649-2424, or by visiting our website ago.vermont.gov/cap/stopping-scams. The Elder Protection Initiative has even more information on how you can help on the Get Involved page.