Each week, the ITRC works with a wide variety of organizations and agencies to bring consumers the most up-to-date news of scams and fraud attempts. Scam Detector is one such organization, and their weekly top ten list of the most prevalent, original, or newest scams helps consumers stay on top of their personal data safety. Here are some of the top scams for this week:

#1 – Airline Voucher Fraud

This one has been around for a while, but it’s making a comeback now that the holidays are approaching. When what appears to be a check arrives in your mailbox, you open the very official-looking correspondence to find a voucher for two free airline tickets. The wording in the letter informs you that they’ve been trying to reach you for some time and that this opportunity is about to expire. You’re required to call the phone number in order to claim your vouchers, and that’s when the real fun begins, at least where your personally identifiable information and your credit card number are concerned.

Do not fall for this. Always go by the old adage, “If it’s too good to be true…” and don’t be taken in by promises of no-cost goods or services valued in the thousands of dollars. If you do receive a voucher-letter like this one, you can help stop fraud by reporting it to the US Postal Service at their fraud investigation website.

#2 – Hilton Hotel Scam

Just as with the too-good-to-be-true airline travel, the Hilton Hotel scam plays off of the fact that you may be planning to travel at this time of year, and the thought of sleeping on an airbed in your grandparents’ living room isn’t too enticing. Scammers know that you’re more likely to fall for this scam since you may have been looking up travel and hotel rates, and just assume that this is related to your searches.

An automated caller dials you up and informs you that you’ve been awarded a free stay due to your past loyalty to the Hilton family of hotels. After being asked for a ridiculous amount of personally identifiable information, you’re passed off to another fast-talking agent who tries to convince you this deal is only good today, so you’d better make a snap decision and hand them your credit card information.

Here’s the problem: Hilton doesn’t have automated call centers and they don’t call up previous guests and offer them free hotel stays. This is a scam, one that even involves sending you to your computer to pick out your free vacation off their website, usually a site called Luxury Getaway Group. As with all of these strange, high-dollar offers, remember not to be taken in by slick promises of free stuff.

#3 – Government Grant Scam

This seems to be the week for too-good-to-be-true financial windfalls, doesn’t it? In this scam, an official-sounding caller informs you that you’ve be awarded a government grant. He goes on to outline the requirements for eligibility, which (surprise!) you meet. All you have to do is provide the caller with all of your personally identifiable information and your bank account number, since he claims the grant money will be deposited electronically.

This scam is believable mostly due to the low dollar amount, at least compared to other outrageous free money scams. When you’re being offered only a few thousand dollars, it sounds more legitimate than those phishing emails that promise you hundreds of millions of dollars.

The very first thing to keep in mind is that you should never, ever give out your personal information to someone who contacts you, even if they claim they’re just verifying your identity. The other thing to remember is that grant money is awarded via paper check, mailed to the recipient. It usually isn’t transferred electronically. If you receive a call like this one, hang up immediately.

For the rest of the top scams of this week, check out the Scam Detector website or go to the ITRC’s list of current scams and alerts.

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