While scams can target anyone regardless of background, communities of color may be viewed by scammers as particularly vulnerable. In 2021, the Federal Trade Commission released a report which showed that majority Latine/Hispanic communities report more scams than majority white communities, and were more likely to be asked to pay scammers in ways that are harder to dispute or reverse. In some cases, offenders specifically used language barriers and cultural differences to take advantage of vulnerable people.
You’ll find these below along with strategies you can use to protect yourself from them.
The prevalence of scams in the Latine/Hispanic community.
Scams are commonplace in the Latine/Hispanic communities. Two in five Latinos report being targeted for a scam, and one in five report having lost money to one.
To make matters worse, more than half of those who have been victimized by a scam once go on to be victimized by another scam in the future.
Unfortunately, these figures may not tell the full story. Communities of color in general have less access to financial services and financial education; they are also less likely to have generational wealth or emergency savings compared to their white counterparts to cover lost funds in the event they are scammed. Scams are underreported for a variety of reasons, ranging from not knowing where to submit complaints to feelings of shame after being victimized.
Common scams targeting the Latine/Hispanic community.
The first step in protecting yourself from scams targeting the Latine/ Hispanic community is to understand the different types of scams you may encounter, especially the most common tactics used.
Government impostor scam.
A government impostor scam is when someone calls, texts, or emails you and falsely claims they’re part of the government. They can sometimes use a fake caller ID to make it look like they’re calling from an official government office or business. These scammers may try to get you to send money and gift cards or share your personal information in order to steal your identity.
Immigration and green card scams are also very common in the Latine/Hispanic community. The most common form involves fake notarios contacting you and promising to speed up the process of getting your green card.
Although the role of notario publico is a valid one in many Latin countries, it doesn’t exist in the United States. If a self-described notario calls you, don’t provide your personal information. In the worst case, falling victim to an immigration scam could lead to an arrest warrant for deportation.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has made it possible for scammers to recreate peoples’ voices. This is the foundation of grandparent scams. These involve a scammer using AI to mimic a grandchild’s voice. Then the scammer calls the grandparents and asks for money, claiming to be in distress.
In a utility scam, someone contacts you claiming to be your utility company or its parent business. The scammer will say that you have to pay a certain amount of money now or else your electricity will be cut off. They will often ask for a pre-paid money card or gift card for payment to avoid being traced.
Finally, investment scams typically involve the promise of a short-term investment with high rates of return. The scammer may use false documents to convince you to give them money for something that sounds like a sure thing. However, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
How to protect yourself from these scams.
Each of these scams target Latine/Hispanic communities in different ways. But there are steps you can take to keep yourself safe from each of them.
Just knowing how scammers are targeting your community can help keep you safe. When you understand how people may try to scam you, it will be easier to spot those scams if you ever experience them. Familiarizing yourself with the warning signs of the most common scams targeting the Latine/Hispanic community is a great way to start, and be wary of unexpected messages that are trying to make you panic.
Verify before providing information or payment.
Scammers typically want money or your personal information immediately. This is because they know if you try to verify anything that they’re telling you, you likely will uncover the scam. This is why it’s important to verify what someone over the phone is telling you before you give them any personal information or payments.
For example, if someone claiming to be your utility company calls you demanding immediate payment, hang up and call the utility company back at the phone number you typically use for them. If you actually owe them money, they’ll tell you and you can make the payment. If you don’t, you’ll know you were the target of a scam.
Be skeptical of promises.
It’s also wise to be skeptical of promises that sound too good to be true. For example, getting a green card is a lengthy, complicated process. No one can speed that up just because you pay them. The same is true for investment deals and short-term loans. If you can’t believe the deal you’re getting, that could be a sign you’re being targeted by a scam.
If you’ve recently been targeted by a scam, your best option is to report it to the FTC. This is a government organization that will share the details of the scam with 2,800 law enforcement offices across the country. That way, they can protect other members of the Latine/Hispanic communities from falling victim to what you’ve experienced.
You can file a report with the FTC online by visiting this link. Or, go here if you prefer to file the report in Spanish.
Help your community stay safe from scams.
In addition to protecting yourself, you can help protect your community. Share what you’ve learned from this article with your friends, family, and neighbors, and encourage those who have been the victim of scams to report them to the FTC.