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Being Heard: The Federal Trade Commission

Have you ever been in one of those situations where you are certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that someone is trying to scam you? It could be something like you get a spontaneous job interview and nearly an hour later, you get it offer. Or, maybe you get one of those infamous "African prince" e-mails which requests financial assistance from you. Whatever the case, you are convinced that this is attempted identity theft, and you want to somehow hold these individuals accountable for their actions. As it would so happen, there is an agency within the federal government which deals with these kind of issues - The Federal Trade Commission (FTC). To be more precise, we refer to these issues as "fraud".

The Federal Trade Commission handles fraud.

Fraud is defined in the American Dictionary as:

"deceit, trickery, sharp practice, or breach of confidence, perpetrated for profit or to gain some unfair or dishonest advantage."

In other words, scammers largely exist so that they can profit off of your misfortune. A highly skilled fraud will be able to trick you into thinking that they are a real organization or business, and pretend to offer you a fantastic deal for their so-called "services". What they are really trying to do however, is either steal your money, or your identity, which they can use to make even more money, much to your detriment.

Anyway, the FTC, like many of the previous organizations we've discussed is largely blind and dependent to some extent on citizen reporting. This agency won't be able to help you if they don't know that a fraud exists. Now that the FTC is the right organization to report fraud to, how exactly do we do it?

As it so happens, the process is surprisingly similar to submitting an equal employment opportunity (EEO) complaint, or an occupational safety violation. You start off by going to the FTC's official website:

Once there, simply hover over the "I would like to...", and you should see a list of options become available. We want to choose "Report Fraud to the FTC"

However, this first link is strictly informational. I recommend you read through all of it so you can rest assured you're taking the right action, and so that you can inform others how the process works.

To actually report the fraud, just click on "Report Fraud", under the Take Action menu on the homepage. You should be directed to a form that will allow you to describe the incident in more detail. Was it a fake business? Was it a fake job offer? Select as applicable. When you are done, save the completed form for your records, in case there are any issues later. You will then want to save copies of any and all communications you had with the fraudulent organization, similar to how you would collect evidence for an EEO or OSHA complaint. Take screen caps of text messages. Download e-mails. Copy chat transcripts. All of this is important information, so that you can remember later, and so that you can share with the FTC when they do decide to contact you.

Then, you just wait until you are contacted. Just like any other complaint or investigation, make sure you continuously and actively collect data from the offending organization. Ideally, if you want them to get caught, you don't want to inform this group that they have been reported. That will give them the chance to break everything down and regroup as another fraudulent agency. Don't let the cat out of the bag, if at all possible. Since you are dealing with shady customers, don't try to spook them either, by showing your suspicions. Pretend to play along with their games, but don't offer them any of your personal information or credit card numbers. Be as naïve as possible for as long as possible, so the lying cheats will think that they landed another phish.

Some frauds can be pretty clever. Others are as obvious as the hamburglar. In either case, it should be reported.

And, that's pretty much it. Please do not hesitate to comment, if there is anything you would like to contribute to this discussion! The reason I chose this topic for today was because I was very recently (and unsuccessfully) scammed by a group of people who were impersonating an employer that was offering me a "job". Tomorrow, I plan to go over this incident as a case study so that you can learn some useful tips on how to know whether you're being defrauded. Stay tuned!


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