How To Find the Biggest Scams in Your Area

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Falling victim to a common scam can rob you of a sense of peace as well as your money. Fortunately, there are some ways you can educate yourself on the biggest scams occurring where you live.

The Federal Trade Commission features some ways consumers can find out about crime trends and scams that are happening in their area. The information comes from the agency’s Consumer Sentinel, an investigative cyber tool that gives local law enforcement agencies access to millions of reports on things like identity theft, unwanted calls, fraud, scams and more.

What Are the Top Scams in Your State?

A key part of the tool is Tableau Public, a data visualization platform that shows areas of the United States affected by fraud and identity theft scams in interactive maps.

The site allows you to toggle between several tabs that show the following views:

  • All reports by state
  • Fraud by state
  • Fraud by metro area
  • ID theft by state
  • ID theft by metro area

To see fraud and ID theft report statistics in your state, select the appropriate tabs above the map. When I clicked on fraud by state, it showed me the top scams by category as of December 2022. As you can see below, impostor scams are one of the top ruses in Georgia.

Georgia fraud statistics
Screenshot via public.tableau.com

What Are the Top Scams in Your Metro Area?

For a deeper dive, I clicked on the “Frauds by Metro Area” tab and zoomed in on the map to see details on the number of scams reported in the metro Atlanta area. I saw that the Atlanta metro area had a total of 30,596 fraud reports at the end of 2022!

According to the data, the top scam categories in the Atlanta area are:

  • Impostor scams
  • Online shopping and negative reviews
  • Telephone and mobile services
  • Prize, sweepstakes and lotteries
  • Internet services
Fraud map Atlanta

Screenshot via public.tableau.com

To find the top scams in your area with Tableau Public, simply find your metro area on the map and click on it. You can hold down the CTRL key and click on several metro areas to compare them.

Imposter scams, also known as “pretexting” scams, are especially dangerous because of how easily you can be fooled, says money expert Clark Howard.

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“I want you to know that this is an area you need to really be on guard against, especially now through text messaging, where something will look just like an alert you may have received from your credit card company or bank, saying there’s been a breach of your account,” he says.

“And it’s true, breaches happen all the time, so the criminals go where we’re sensitized to expect a problem. And they impersonate a bank, they impersonate a credit card company, they impersonate a business we do business with.”

How To Avoid Becoming a Pretexting Victim

Don’t Share Personal Information

“Anytime somebody contacts you (by phone, by text, by email because those are the three most common ways these pretexters work) never, never, never, never — not ever — give any information,” Clark says.

Don’t Click a Link From a Stranger

Clark also warns that you should never click on a link in a text message or email if you don’t know the sender.

If you’ve received a text or email about a bank or other financial account and you’re not sure it’s legitimate, heed Clark’s advice:

“Remember this simple rule: Go to the website or the app of whatever it is … go there, sign in and you will know right away if there’s any issue with your account.”

Got more questions on how to protect yourself? Read our identity theft guide.

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