4 places to turn to if you suspect a scam
Con artists are as old as the concept of wealth and personal property, but the ideas for how to part you from your hard-earned money are as new as the latest technology. Nigerian investors asking you to front funds in exchange for a monetary windfall have morphed into hackers who can “kidnap” your computer data for a ransom.
The next big scam lurks just beyond the horizon, and many will fall for it before it’s exposed and stopped. Aside from following the old adage “if it looks too good to be true, it is,” you might need some outside help when faced with a scam. Here are a few places to turn to when you have questions about a questionable deal:
The AARP — once known as the Association of American Retired Persons — opens its membership to anybody 50 and older. The organization brings with it a lot of clout and information for its members and others. If you’re wary about a investment or a financial matter, a stop at the AARP website (www.aarp.org) is often a good place to start. While the organization doesn’t have enforcement or statutory authority, it has the ears of those who do, and they listen to AARP. The organization predominately keeps abreast of issues, including scams, affecting people 50 and older, but many of those same issues impact people of all ages. The AARP even has state sites with more specific information geared to those residents.
Texas Attorney General’s Office
As the highest law enforcement office in the state, the Texas Attorney General Office keeps an eye out for trouble makers. The office has an entire division dedicated to consumer protection and regularly sends out alerts regarding shady dealings. If you have a question about debt collection, home and remodeling repair, insurance, debt management, business opportunities and the like, you can learn more at the Texas AG Office’s website, www.texasattorneygeneral.gov. As a state office, it has some teeth to put a bite on swindlers trying to scam you.
Texas Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner
This office is charged with watching over the credit industry in Texas along with helping consumers. One of its underlying tenets is to “protect and safeguard consumers against abusive and deceptive lending practices.” It works under the state finance commission. Go to www.occc.state.tx.us to learn more about its services and how you can benefit from them.
President Barack Obama set up the Financial Fraud Task Force in November 2009 to go after people responsible for the financial crisis or those taking advantage of the recovery. The task force works to connect efforts at various levels to address fraud and similar crimes. The website at www.stopfraud.gov offers a variety of tips to protect you from financial schemes and frauds, financial exploitation and charity scams.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
According to its website (www.consumerfinance.gov), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s mission is “to make markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans — whether they are applying for a mortgage, choosing among credit cards or using any number of other consumer financial products.” You can learn a lot about financial products through the website, which also offers a place to lodge complaints and see what others have filed. The bureau possesses investigative and enforcement powers, so it definitely has some teeth.
U.S. Department of Treasury
This federal agency sets up the umbrella for the country’s economic and financial systems. The U.S. Treasury Department provides good information regarding different economic and financial items. It also has investigative and enforcement powers when it comes to several financial-related crimes. The website (www.treasury.gov) provides information on protecting yourself as well as places to report suspected mail and email scams and other types of fraud.
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