Guess what the most frequent Google search related to scams is? According to Google, it’s simply “How do I report a scam?” The answer, of course, isn’t simple.
Fraudsters can’t be stopped unless their schemes are reported.
“If you think you’ve been targeted by scammers, there are federal watchdog agencies you should contact to stay protected,” reports Sid Kirchheimer, the author of Scam-Proof Your Life (published by AARP Books/Sterling).
Here’s a list to which federal watchdog agency should get your complaints:
Federal Trade Commission | 877-382-4357
This is the agency for reporting identity theft, abusive debt collectors and most types of fraud. After filing a complaint, you’ll get a reference number to use when contacting the agency for future updates. The FTC received more than 3 million complaints in 2015, and it does not routinely respond back to you or resolve your individual case. Rather, your complaints will be entered into a database that the FTC and some 2,000 civil and criminal enforcement agencies use to track scam patterns and build cases against specific con artists. Fraud complaints should also be filed with your state’s attorney general and even local law enforcement authorities.
Postal Inspection Service | 877-876-2455
To report scams distributed by U.S. mail, such as bogus lottery and sweepstakes “winnings,” chain-letter schemes and deceptive advertisements—as well as mail theft.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau | 855-411-2372
For complaints about shady business practices and financial products, including loans, bank services, credit reporting, ID theft, debt collection and payment cards. The CFPB forwards complaints to the company, which has 15 days to respond. Cases are supposed to be resolved within 60 days. You can check the status of your case via the CFPB website. For credit cards and bank-issued ATM and debit cards that are used fraudulently, lost or stolen, contact the issuer.
Internet Crime Complaint Center
For reporting internet-based scams, including online auctions; investment and sales fraud; internet extortion, hacking and phishing; and scam emails. Operated by the FBI, the IC3 forwards complaint information to appropriate law enforcement or regulatory agencies, but does not directly conduct investigations.