NASHVILLE, TN –The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported a new scam that uses social media to defraud consumers. Emergency broadband program impersonators offer a free device and Internet service in exchange for money or personal information. Don’t believe them. While there are programs to help people to connect during the pandemic, they do not cost money to enroll. 

The FTC posted an August alert about fake stem cell therapies. There is a lot of misinformation out there about the coronavirus and stem cell products, too. But those have not been shown to be safe or effective for most ailments, and could actually be harmful.

If you get an email from FTC Chairwoman Lina M. Khan telling you she wants to send you COVID-19 relief money, it’s fake. Don’t respond with your name, address, or date of birth. The IRS sends those checks, not the FTC. And your boss didn’t email you asking for a gift card to pay for the office party. Phone your boss instead and ask him or her how you could contribute.

After Nashville’s deadly tornadoes in March 2020, scammers in North Nashville offered to clean up, replace roofs, or rebuild houses. There were speculators offering to buy damaged homes for cash. The FTC says: don’t believe any promises that aren’t in writing; don’t pay by wire transfer; never pay in cash; don’t make the final payment until the work is done and you are satisfied. 

When natural disasters strike like the August floods in Waverly, Tennessee, remember that FEMA doesn’t charge application fees. Anyone who wants money to help you qualify for FEMA funds, that’s probably a scam.

There are all kinds of identity theft and phishing scams. The FTC warns consumers to protect their personal information. Only scammers will say they are a government official–Social Security or unemployment scams are common– and then demand money, credit card number, or bank account information. 

Here are four warning signs that you’re being scammed:

1. Scammers PRETEND to be from an organization you know.

2. Scammers say there’s a PROBLEM or a PRIZE.

3. Scammers PRESSURE you to act immediately.

4. Scammers tell you to PAY in a specific way.

Here are four ways to avoid a scam:

1. Don’t give your personal or financial information in response to a request that you didn’t expect. 

2. Resist the pressure to act immediately.

3. Never pay someone who insists you pay with a gift card or by using a money transfer service. 

4. Before you act, tell someone you trust about the offer. Talking about it could help you realize its’ a scam.

Fraudsters use many schemes to take your money.

Here are four common ones:

1. Fake check scams: someone sends you a check. They make up a story and tell you to deposit it. They tell you to wire some or all of the money back to them — or to another person. The money appears in your bank account, so you do it. But the check is fake. It can take weeks for the bank to figure it out, but when it does, the bank will want you to repay the money you withdrew.

2. Romance Scams: These fraudsters create fake profiles on dating sites and apps. They strike up a relationship with you and work to build your trust, sometimes talking or chatting several times a day. Then, they make up a story — like saying they have an emergency — and ask for money. A romance scammer might also contact you through social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, or Google Hangouts. 

3. Family Emergency Scams: You get an unexpected call from someone who pretends to be a friend or relative. They say they need cash for an emergency and beg you to wire money right away. They might say they need your help to get out of jail, pay a hospital bill, or leave a foreign country. They often ask you not to tell anyone in your family. Their goal is to trick you into sending money before you realize it’s a scam.

4. Apartment Rental Scams: You respond to an ad for an with surprisingly low rent. Before you’ve even seen the apartment, you apply and are told to wire money — maybe for an application fee, security deposit, or the first month’s rent. After you wire the money, you find out that there is no apartment for rent, or that the scammer put their contact information on someone else’s photo or rental ad. Scammers run a similar scam with vacation and car rentals.FTC’s advice on wiring money, what to do if you’re wired money to a scammer, and how to report fraud is available here: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/before-you-wire-money#what%20to%20do