Imposter Scams: A Criminal May be Impersonating Someone You Know

Author: PeopleFinders on May 19th, 2020
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Avoiding scams is an incredibly important part of keeping yourself and your money safe. After all, in 2018 alone, nearly $1.5 billion was lost to scammers. That’s over a third higher than 2017 losses! For the first time, imposter scams were at the top of the list, which means that more and more people are starting to be sucked in by these scams. Here’s what you can do to spot and avoid them.

What Are Imposter Scams?

In the simplest terms, imposter scams happen when a criminal impersonates someone you know. There are a number of ways to do this.

Long-Lost Relatives

It’s likely that you don’t know everyone in your family. There may even be extended family members who you know of but have never met. With those openings, it can be easy for someone to call and claim to be a long-lost family member who needs your help. Maybe he or she claims to be in legal trouble, or wants you to send money for a flight to meet you. Either way, this imposter is probably out to just take your money and run.

Grandparent Scams

Elderly people are often more easily manipulated, which is why some scams specifically target them. A scammer finds a bit of information about you and your family and then calls, claiming to be your grandchild. He or she will claim to have run into some trouble and need some money, whether to make bail, pay bank fees, or some other serious reason. You send the money via wire transfer. But then you learn it wasn’t really your grandchild, just a scammer with a similar voice.

Similar scams fake kidnapping. You get a call from a number you recognize as your children’s or grandchild’s. But the person at the other end is loud and unhinged. They say that they have kidnapped your loved one, and will only release them if you pay. However, a quick call to your loved one’s work or significant other may likely reveal that they are actually safe and sound. That “kidnapper” is just a good actor, with technology that allows them to spoof known phone numbers.

SSA Calls

More and more people are being taken in by SSA scams every day, and it’s a significant reason why scam losses are so high. This is a simple scam. All someone does is call you, claiming to be from the Social Security Administration. Then, he or she will ask you to confirm your Social Security number. By confirming your SSN, you’ve just given a scammer all that’s necessary to possibly steal your identity.

Why Are Scams Effective?

Scammers employ various tactics to convince you to hand over your hard-earned money.

  • Fear: It’s a powerful motivator, and that’s why so many scammers employ it frequently. If a scammer tells you that you’ll go to jail unless you pay money, then you may pay it and not ask any questions.
  • Urgency: This trick is used as both a scam and just as an unsavory business practice. For example, if you hear a scammer impersonating your grandson tell you about an impending jail stay unless you transfer money right now, then you’re less likely to think critically about whether it’s a good idea.
  • Blackmail: Pretty much everyone has a few secrets in the closet. When a scammer tells you that a governmental agency will start digging through your personal records if you don’t give up your bank account information, you’re more likely to hand that information over, even if it’s an empty threat.

How Can I Protect Myself?

The best advice is to never, ever give out personally identifying information over the phone unless it’s a phone number that you’ve called for this purpose. The SSA will never call to ask for your Social Security number. Federal bureaus will never require that you pay fines immediately over the phone. And even your relatives will rarely need money sent directly.

Another way to make sure you’re not being taken in by an imposter is to use PeopleFinders. With PeopleFinders, you can perform a reverse phone lookup to try and see if the number calling is actually an official federal number, or perform a search to see if you can find criminal spammers. Then, continue to protect yourself by regularly checking the PeopleFinders blog for more information about scams.


Scams can be scary. And many people are worried about falling victim without even realizing they’re getting scammed. However, as long as you take a few general safety precautions, you can keep yourself and the rest of your family safe. Don’t worry about scams. Use PeopleFinders to check everyone who calls you, so you can try and make sure you’re only talking to people who are legitimate.

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Categorized in: Scams