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Globe Magazine

How to report a scam and financial fraud

You might be able to stop someone else from being a victim.

If you or someone you know has been scammed, experts say you should report it. You might not get your money back, but you might prevent someone else from being a victim. According to Brendan Donahue, a postal inspector program manager, you should also reach out to one of the state or federal agencies that contributes to the Federal Trade Commission’s national database of fraud complaints.

Here’s where and how to report fraud:

The Federal Trade Commission is the clearinghouse for complaints collected from individuals as well as federal, state, and local agencies. It shares that data with law enforcement and tracks trends. Will Maxson, assistant director of the FTC’s Division of Marketing Practices, describes the agency as a “one-stop shop” for reporting fraud. The FTC has civil (not criminal) authority, but it can sue companies that offer fraudulent products or services. Its consumer blog at ftc.gov is a good source of information on the latest in scams, including those referencing COVID-19. Register a complaint at ftccomplaintassistant.gov.

The FTC also manages the national Do Not Call Registry, where you can tell legitimate telemarketers that you do not want to be called. The registry does not guard against scammers or block all robocalls, however, and non-sales calls from charities, political campaigns, surveys, and debt collectors are allowed. To see a list of what’s covered, visit donotcall.gov and click on “Information for Consumers.”

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The US Postal Inspection Service investigates identity theft and “mail fraud,” which now covers online scams. It is among the federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, that has criminal authority to investigate or prosecute scammers and cybercrime. File a complaint at: uspis.gov/report. Or call the hot line: 1-877-876-2455.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center investigates cybercrime, including tech-support schemes. File complaints at ic3.gov.

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The Massachusetts attorney general’s office also collects fraud complaints, shares data with the FTC, and enforces anti-fraud laws. File a complaint online at mass.gov/how-to/file-a-consumer-complaint, or call the fraud hot line, which is staffed 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays: 617-727-8400.