Imposter scams are on the increase. According the the Federal Trade Commission, there were 382,211 complaints about imposter scams in the first half of 2018. This is by far the most common form of fraud, accounting for more complaints than the next six fraud types combined!
It starts with an unsolicited phone call, email or text. These con artists impersonate people and organizations you would normally trust.
• A government agency such as Social Security, Medicare for the IRS
• Companies you do business with, such as your bank or power company
• Familiar charities
• A lawyer or debt collector
• A family member or friend
The goal is to frighten you or cause you to make a rash decision, send them money or sensitive financial information, then they disappear.
• You receive an unsolicited call or email claiming you owe money to a business, utility or the government, and risk dire consequences such as arrest or an account being frozen if you don’t pay immediately.
• A caller says you’ve won a prize or qualify for a grant, but you must pay an upfront fee to collect it.
• A caller claiming to be from a tech company or internet service provider says he's detected a virus or malware on your computer.
• You receive a call or text message from someone who claims to be your grandchild or another close relation and to need money for an emergency.
• The person contacting you asks for payment by wire transfer, gift card, prepaid debit card or cash. Scammers favor these methods because they are hard to track.
• Do confirm independently whether a business, utility or government agency is indeed trying to reach you. Use the customer service numbers or email addresses listed on invoices, account statements and legitimate corporate and government websites.
• Do hang up on unsolicited callers offering to fix computer problems. Companies like Apple and Microsoft will not contact you for tech support unless you have requested help, and they will not ask for personal information.
• Do report impostor scams to the company or institution being impersonated.
• Do cut off contact if you suspect someone you’ve forged a bond with online is an impostor.
• Don’t give sensitive information such as credit card details or your Social Security number over the phone unless you’re sure of whom you are dealing with.
• Don’t make a payment or allow remote access to your computer to someone who calls out of the blue offering tech support.