This week, state Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis cautioned Floridians about a major rise in fraud losses nationwide and offering tips to prevent scams.
Recent data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) revealed that reported fraud losses spiked 70 percent in 2021 in comparison to 2020; costing American consumers more than $5.8 billion nationwide. The FTC received more than 156,000 fraud reports from Floridians in 2021, with identity theft the most reported fraud category in the state.
“Last year, Florida ranked fifth in fraud reports nationwide, costing Floridians an estimated $331.3 million. Every day, fraudsters are looking for new and creative ways to steal your money and identity. Many scams can be prevented by doing your research, navigating to only reputable websites, and refusing to share your personal information. A good rule of thumb while surfing the web is that if something sounds too good to be true, then probably is. When browsing online, stay on your guard and don’t let your hard-earned money go into the pockets of scam artists. If you are suspicious of fraud, report it immediately at FraudFreeFlorida.com,” Patronis said.
Patronis shared four tips from Consumer Reports to protect yourself from common scams:
1. If It Sounds Too Good To Be True, It Is. Scammers often urge you to act immediately. If you take some time to think about the message or offer you’ve received before acting on it, you may be able to sidestep a scam.
2. Don’t Respond. Ignore texts, emails, and social media messages if you’re unsure about who the sender or it seems suspicious. Contact the sender who the message might be mimicking to confirm whether the message or email is real. Never give your personal or financial info to anyone who contacts you out of the blue.
3. Check Before You Click. Don’t click on links in email and texts if you have any uncertainty; some may put your device’s security in jeopardy. Hovering your mouse over a link in an email will reveal the entire URL, which may help you determine if it’s fraudulent. Case in point: An “.ru” at the end of a URL means the link you thought was to a local retailer was created in Russia.
4. Pay Wisely. Use your credit card for online purchases. Also, only use payment methods like Cash App, Venmo, and Zelle with people you know and trust.
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