Portland Legal Services - Joanne Reisman, Attorney at Law
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Scam Calls and Emails - how to avoid being a Victim!!

To avoid becoming a scam victim regard any call or email that asks any personal, business or financial  information including a request to verify information as a possible scam!

Any legitimate callers or emailers will be willing to assist you in verifying that their calls or emails are legitimate.  If they are pushy,  anxious, evasive, or demanding when you ask questions or don't want to help you verify their identity or business legitimacy - they are scammers!

Here are the steps you need to take right from the start. 

  1. Just don't respond to any emails that request personal or business info.  Legitimate businesses that need your info will have a phone number and a person you can contact.  Just don't respond to any requests for information by email ever.  It is far too easy for people running international scams to send you emails with fake looking business logos and even fake return addresses.  Also when you respond you signal that they have contacted a real person and you become a live fish on the hook for them to play with.  You may also encourage them to further use your email address for spam.  If you have to respond, do so only to request their contact information.  But if you can tell who the business is from the original email, go to the next steps and don't reply.
  2. When contacted by phone, do not start answering questions or giving out information or any type - you start asking questions.
  3. Ask the caller to give you their full name, the name of the company they work for, the location and name of the office they are calling from, a working number that you can all them back on, and any extension you need to dial to get them back on the line.  At this point most scammers will hang up but not always.
  4. Politely say you will call them back and hang up.
  5. Next use an independent means to verify the business and to verify that this call is legitimately related to a department in that business.  Don't call the number you were just given.  Instead use reliable independent sources of information you already have to contact the business.  Remember that most billing statements have names, addresses and contact numbers so check your old statements for this info.  If it's a bank, call your local branch.   Once you have a good reliable number then call this number and  ask to speak to the appropriate department depending on what the initial call was about.   Discuss with someone in that department the call you received, who it was from, and the information you were given and what the caller wanted from you.  Verify that the call and the request for information is for a legitimate reason related to the business.
  6. If the call is verified as legitimate - don't hang up and go back to calling the original caller.  Instead ask to be routed internally to the call center where the person you need to talk to is located.  Scammers can mimic legitimate calls and even give you correct information and ask questions that a real department employee would ask you.  The problem is that there could be both legitimate calls and scam calls going on at the same time and asking the same questions.  By asking to be routed internally from an office inside the correct business, you can be sure that you get to a legitimate department or call center and that you don't accidentally release info to a scammer the is convincingly mimicking a real call.
  7. If you don't have a number for the business from prior contact, then it may be necessary to research the business on the internet to get the proper contact number.  This will only work for well known major businesses like American Express, or Bank of America.  If it's a business you have never heard of before then even the website you find could be phoney.
  8. Still not sure?  Then don't cooperate and give out any information.  If there is truly a legitimate business need for you info you will probably get something mailed to you at an address that your previously gave to the legitimate business.
  9. Check for scam alerts.  Below you will find information how to contact either the Oregon Department of Justice of the Federal Trade Commission to find out if the type of contact you have just gotten is a known scam.  You can also try typing in the language from an email into your Google browser.  The more common scams tend to use the same language over and over again and you will probably get a web page where your language is being reported and discussed by other consumers that have already spotted the scam. 
  10. Don't get involved in scam baiting.  There are even some consumers that will not only report the scam but will play along with the scammer and update their reports for you to read on various web pages.  This is called scam baiting.  I don't recommend playing this game because some of these scammers are real pirates with real guns and real bullets.  They may be in some foreign country but they could have friends or relatives in the US and you could end up in a life threatening situation.  So you can Google scam baiting if you want to read more about it but stick to just reading about it.

Other steps you can take:

Contact the Oregon Department of Justice.  (DOJ) They should be able to tell you if the type of call you got is part of a scam they are already aware of.  Sometimes the scammer may already be under investigation.
If you have a question about a consumer-related issue or would like to file a complaint against a business please contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at 1-877-877-9392 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or complete an online Consumer Complaint Form anytime.
Some of the services and additional information on the DOJ website include:
Oregon Scam Alert Network   Here you can read about current scams and submit your email so you can be notified of scams alerts as they are released.  There are also links to other helpful pages:


Go to the  Federal Trade Commission website and read about the various consumer fraud and identity theft problems that this website discusses.  There is also advice on steps to take to protect yourself and what to do after you have become a victim to minimize your damages:


FTC on
Under this topic you will find info on:
Limiting Unwanted Calls & Emails Some phone calls and emails are important, some can be annoying, and others are just plain illegal. Learn how to reduce the number of unwanted messages you get by phone and online.
Computer Security The internet offers access to a world of products and services, entertainment and information. At the same time, it creates opportunities for scammers, hackers, and identity thieves. Learn how to protect your computer, your information, and your online files.
Kids' Online Safety The opportunities kids have to socialize online come with benefits and risks. Adults can help reduce the risks by talking to kids about making safe and responsible decisions.
Protecting Your Identity Keeping your important papers secure, shredding documents with sensitive information before you put them in the trash, and limiting the personal information you carry with you are among the ways you can protect your identity. Find additional tips to reduce your risk of identity theft, including how and when to order your free credit report.
Repairing Identity TheftIf you suspect someone has stolen your identity, acting quickly to limit the damage is key. Take a deep breath, and then place a fraud alert on your credit file, order your credit reports, and call the FTC to report the crime.

Under this topic you will find info on:
  • Children’s Privacy The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) gives parents control over what information websites can collect from their kids.  The COPPA Rule — with new provisions in effect on July 1, 2013 —  puts additional protections in place and streamlines other procedures that companies covered by the rule need to follow.   If you run a website designed for kids or have a website geared to a general audience but collect information from someone you know is under 13, you must comply with COPPA’s requirements.  Questions?  Send them to CoppaHotLine@ftc.gov.
  • Consumer Privacy Think your company doesn't make any privacy claims? Think again — and reread your privacy policy to make sure you're honoring the promises you've pledged. Consumers care about the privacy of their personal information and savvy businesses understand the importance of being clear about what you do with their data.
  • Credit Reporting Does your business use consumer reports or credit reports to evaluate customers’ creditworthiness?  Do you consult reports when evaluating applications for jobs, leases, or insurance?  Here's information about your responsibilities under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and other laws when using, reporting, and disposing of information in those reports.
  • Data Security Many companies keep sensitive personal information about customers or employees in their files or on their network.  Having a sound security plan in place to collect only what you need, keep it safe, and dispose of it securely can help you meet your legal obligations to protect that sensitive data.  The FTC has free resources for businesses of any size.
  • Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act requires financial institutions – companies that offer consumers financial products or services like loans, financial or investment advice, or insurance – to explain their information-sharing practices to their customers and to safeguard sensitive data.
  • Red Flags Rule The Red Flags Rule requires many businesses and organizations to implement a written Identity Theft Prevention Program designed to detect the warning signs  – or red flags – of identity theft in their day-to-day operations.
  • U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework provides a method for U.S. companies to transfer personal data outside the European Union in a way that's consistent with the EU Data Protection Directive.  To join the Safe Harbor, a company must self-certify to the Department of Commerce that it complies with EU standards.  The FTC enforces the promise that companies make when they certify that they participate in the Safe Harbor Framework.

Under this topic you will find information on:
  • Credit and Loans If you extend credit to consumers, are in the business of offering loans, or help companies that do, know your compliance responsibilities.  (Looking for information about credit reports or consumer reports?  Visit Credit Reporting.)
  • Debt If you market products or services promising to help consumers with their debts – or assist companies that do – are you up on the rules and laws that apply to your business?  (For resources related to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, visit Debt Collection.)
  • Debt Collection The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protects consumers from abusive or harassing treatment by debt collectors and establishes guidelines for the industry.  Is your company complying with the law?
  • Mortgages The FTC enforces laws that protect consumers from deceptive mortgage practices by certain kinds of lenders.  The FTC also takes action when companies use illegal tactics directed to people facing foreclosure.  If your company is within the jurisdiction of the FTC, are you complying with the law?
  • Payments and Billing  Under the law, businesses must take steps to ensure that charges to customers' credit cards, debit cards, phone bills, and other accounts are authorized.  Those principles also apply to mobile payments.  Does your company process payments for others?  There are compliance standard

Under this topic you will find information on:
  • Shopping & Saving Realistic budgeting is the key to maintaining a financial safety net and spending wisely. Whether you’re shopping for things you buy routinely — or saving for that occasional big ticket item — planning is key. These shopping tips can help you save money on everyday purchases, as well as on some products and services you buy once in a while.
  • Buying & Owning a Car Having a car can be an expensive proposition. Read tips on buying vs. leasing, negotiating the best deal, financing, getting the most out of warranties and service contracts, using gas efficiently, and avoiding repossession.
  • Credit and Loans Decisions about credit and loans involve lots of factors, including how much money you need, what terms you’re offered, and who is behind the offer. If you are choosing a credit card or wondering whether offers of credit and loans are on the up and up, these tips can help.
  • Dealing with Debt Debt collection, debt management, debt relief, debt settlement... Debt is a four-letter word that’s the subject of some complex laws. Learn how to exercise your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act — and how to recognize debt-related scams and frauds.
  • Resolving Consumer Problems Things don’t always go right. Sometimes you don’t get what you ordered; sometimes you get an item of the blue. What are your obligations? And by the way, are there advantages to using any particular method of payment in terms of consumer protections?

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