Fraud and Scam Information

Court Solicitation of Personal Information
The Court of Federal Claims DOES NOT call, email, or send letters requesting money or personal identifying information.

Vaccine Program petitioners SHOULD NOT provide money, or “a tax payment,” to anyone in exchange for a Vaccine Program settlement check even if the request allegedly comes from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Vaccine Program, the Office of Special Masters, or the United States Court of Federal Claims.

Common Scams:

Identity Theft:

Identity theft occurs when someone assumes the victim’s identity to perform a fraud or other criminal act. Criminals can get the information they need to assume the victim’s identity from a variety of sources, including theft, rifling through trash, or by compromising credit or bank information. They may approach the victim in person, by telephone, or on the Internet.

Advance Fee Scams:

An advance fee scam occurs when the victim pays money to someone in anticipation of receiving something of greater value and then receives little or nothing in return. For example, vaccine program petitioners SHOULD NOT provide money, or “a tax payment,” to anyone in exchange for a Vaccine Program settlement check even if the request allegedly comes from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Vaccine Program, the Office of Special Masters, or the United States Court of Federal Claims.

Telemarketing Fraud:

When money or personal/financial information is given to an unknown person or caller, the chances of becoming a victim of a telemarketing fraud increases dramatically.

 Here are some warning signs of telemarketing fraud—what a caller may say:

  • “You must act ‘now’ or the offer won’t be good.”
  • “You’ve won a ‘free’ gift, vacation, or prize.” But you have to pay for “postage and handling” or other charges.
  • “You must send money, give a credit card or bank account number, or have a check picked up by courier.” You may hear this before you have had a chance to consider the offer carefully.
  • “You don’t need to check out the company with anyone.” The callers say you do not need to speak to anyone including your family, lawyer, accountant, local Better Business Bureau, or consumer protection agency.
  • “You don’t need any written information about the company or their references.”
  • “You can’t afford to miss this ‘high-profit, no-risk’ offer.”
  • “You must pay by using a gift card.”

If these or similar “lines” are spoken from a telephone salesperson, just say “no thank you” and hang up the telephone.

Things you can do to avoid Scams:

  1. Spot imposters. Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like a government official, a family member, a charity, or a company you do business with. Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request — whether it comes as a text, a phone call, or an email.  
  2. Do online searches. Type a company or product name into your favorite search engine with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, like “IRS call.” You can even search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.
  3. Don’t believe your caller ID. Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.
  4. Don’t pay upfront for a promise. Someone might ask you to pay in advance for things like debt relief, credit and loan offers, mortgage assistance, or a job. They might even say you’ve won a prize, but first you have to pay taxes or fees. If you do, they will probably take the money and disappear. 
  5. Consider how you pay. Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but some payment methods don’t. Wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back. That’s also true for reloadable cards (like MoneyPak or Reloadit) and gift cards (like iTunes or Google Play). Government offices and honest companies won’t require you to use these payment methods.
  6. Talk to someone. Before you give up your money or personal information, talk to someone you trust. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. They might even threaten you. Slow down, check out the story, do an online search, consult an expert — or just tell a friend.
  7. Hang up on robocalls. If you answer the phone and hear a recorded sales pitch, hang up and report it to the FTC. These calls are illegal, and often the products are bogus. Don’t press 1 to speak to a person or to be taken off the list. That could lead to more calls.
  8. Be skeptical about free trial offers. Some companies use free trials to sign you up for products and bill you every month until you cancel. Before you agree to a free trial, research the company and read the cancellation policy. And always review your monthly statements for charges you don’t recognize.
  9. Don’t deposit a check and wire money back. By law, banks must make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. If a check you deposit turns out to be a fake, you’re responsible for repaying the bank.
  10. Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC at ftc.gov/scams. Get the latest tips and advice about scams sent right to your inbox.

What to do if you are a victim of a Scam:

For the most up to date information on how to identify and report frauds and scams, please visit here.

What to do right away:

  • Stop all contact with the scammer
  • Contact and notify the bank or service you sent money through
  • Contact and notify the three major credit bureaus
  • If your social security number was exposed, contact the Social Security Administration: 1-800-772-1213
  • Change any relevant passwords

What to do next: Report the Scam
Reporting is important because it establishes accurate statistics on the number of people affected and because the FBI and other law enforcement agencies devote considerable resources to breaking up fraud rings. Start with the police (essential if you want to make an insurance claim on stolen property). The AARP Fraud Watch Network also has a hotline available to anyone (877-908-3360), and volunteers there can advise you of the best next step if you’re unsure of what to do. Depending on the crime, other places to contact include:

  • State Attorney General’s Office
  • State Consumer Protection Agencies
  • Better Business Bureau
  • Federal Trade Commission (for federal crimes)