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How to Avoid Getting Scammed

Fraud against American Indians and Alaska Natives is underreported.

Everyone is at risk for fraud, but scammers often target more vulnerable populations such as older adults and members of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) tribes, bands, villages, nations, or communities. 

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) data suggests that AI/AN individuals are more likely to be victims of scams and less likely to report scams than other racial and ethnic groups, which makes them an even more attractive target for con artists. 

Fraudsters frequently look to gain the trust of those with ready access to money, which includes individuals receiving trust fund payments and tribal members in charge of investment committees. 

Fighting fraud is particularly challenging when disasters strike such as the COVID-19 pandemic. These events give scammers opportunities to prey on more people who are facing financial difficulties and seeking help. 

How to Spot a Scam

  • You’re presented with an offer that sounds too good to be true. If someone presents you with a life-changing opportunity, you should always be suspicious. 
  • You’re asked to provide personal or financial information. Legitimate banks, companies and government agencies will only ask consumers to provide confidential information in rare circumstances and will never do so by phone, email, or text message.   
  • You’re told to keep a secret. Fraudsters do not want victims to get a second opinion from someone who could detect a scam. 
  • You’re pushed to act quickly. Scammers know that it is hard for people think clearly when they have less time to evaluate an offer. 
  • You’re asked to send money via wire transfer or a cash reload card. Scammers often tell consumers to send funds through wire transfer or a prepaid card because it is like giving someone cash, which is very hard to trace. 
  • You’re contacted by a stranger. You should only send money or provide personal information to people and entities that you know and trust.  
  • You’re required to pay upfront. No organization would ever require someone to pay money upfront in order to receive a prize, product or deal in return. 

Even if a source seems credible and has worked with tribal members or tribal investment committees in the past, it is always wise to seek advice from a registered financial professional and discuss your options with trusted family members and friends.

How To Avoid a Scam

  • Block unwanted calls and text messages. Take steps to block unwanted calls and to filter unwanted text messages.
  • Don’t give your personal or financial information in response to a request that you didn’t expect. Honest organizations won’t call, email, or text to ask for your personal information, like your Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers.  If you get an email or text message from a company you do business with and you think it’s real, it’s still best not to click on any links. Instead, contact them using a website you know is trustworthy. Or look up their phone number. Don’t call a number they gave you or the number from your caller ID.
  • Resist the pressure to act immediately. Honest businesses will give you time to make a decision. Anyone who pressures you to pay or give them your personal information is a scammer.
  • Know how scammers tell you to pay. Never pay someone who insists you pay with cryptocurrencya wire transfer service like Western Union or MoneyGram, or a gift card. And never deposit a check and send money back to someone.
  • Stop and talk to someone you trust. Before you do anything else, tell someone — a friend, a family member, a neighbor — what happened. Talking about it could help you realize it’s a scam.

Report Scams to the FTC

If you were scammed or think you saw a scam, tell the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

You can help protect your family, friends, tribal community, and others by reporting scams.  Government agencies use scam reports to analyze patterns of fraudulent activity and may take legal action against companies or individuals based on the reporting.  

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