New scam accuses consumers of money laundering and terrorism, FTC warns

US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a warning of scammers pretending to be the FTC and accusing people of laundering money and terrorism.


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The FTC regularly releases consumer alerts on their blog in order to inform and educate people about current scams and how to stay safe online. They became aware of a particular scam accusing people of terrorism and money laundering after a man reported it to his bank and then to the FTC. The letter the man received stated that his online and financial activities put him under suspicion.

Generally, these kinds of scam letters/emails accuse a person of a crime and then offer to clear the charges if he/she agrees to pay a “fine”. However, according to the FTC, the letter the man received did not ask for any kind of payment, leading the goverment agency to believe that the letter is stage one of the scam. It is likely that someone who receives such a threatening letter will later get an urgent phone call demanding a payment to make the supposed charges go away. In similar scams, scammers ask that people make the payment via gift cards or cryptocurrency, which is an immediate giveaway. No legitimate goverment agency or any other organization will accept payments via gift cards or cryptocurrency.

Logically, these scams should be pretty obvious but the crooks at the other end of the line are great manipulators who can pressure people into making foolish decisions. Hopefully, if people become familiar with the types of scams going around, they will be less likely to fall for them if they were to encounter one.

According to the FTC, here’s what people need to know to avoid falling for one of these scams:

  • The FTC will never send a letter like this, and we’ll never threaten you.
  • The FTC does write back to people who write to us, and we sometimes send letters about a refund from a case – but then, we’ll never ask you to pay anything or give personal info to collect your funds.
  • No government agency will ever demand that you pay by gift card, wiring money, or bitcoin. Anyone who does that is a scammer. Full stop.

FTC asks that people who receive letters from the FTC first call the FTC’s Consumer Response Center before doing anything else.