You’ve probably heard of fraudulent emails claiming to be a government agency or phone calls requesting that cash is sent under the pretense of a loved one in trouble. What do these cons have in common? They are referred to as impostor scams. Although they come in countless varieties, these scammers try to impersonate someone you trust. They do so to gain access to one thing, your money.
In fact, the Federal Trade Commission says their fraud-fighting department receives upwards of 400,000 consumer complaints about impostor scams every year. That number surpasses even identity theft complaints.
Why the rise?
Scammers are evolving in their efforts to impersonate government officials as well as rethinking their contact methods, and it seems technology is aiding them.
Don’t want to fall victim to a scam? Read on to learn about the top three new impostor scams of 2018 and how to avoid them.
Most of us avoid 1-800 numbers and certain area codes like 473, which have become synonymous with criminal intent. But when a local area code pops up, it’s safe to pick-up and say “howdy,” right? Wrong. Impostor scammers have learned we trust what we know, and they are using it to their advantage in the form of local area codes. These savvy crooks can fake local numbers and even match the first few digits of your own number to give you a false sense of security. Once you answer, they can add your number to a “sucker list” which means you’re a prime target for fraud.
Worried you’ll miss an important call?
Experts say the obvious thing is to let it go to voicemail. If you can’t handle the wait, then pick it up and if you don’t recognize the caller – hang up. Alternatively, you could always try to track down the identity of the caller by performing a reverse phone search using PeopleFinders.
Love of Money
Love can make you blind, and it can also make you think with your heart instead of your head. That’s exactly what impostor frauds are hoping you’ll do when they find you on dating sites. In one of the crueler scams, you and a supposed dater link up, only for them to use your vulnerability against you and try to cash in. Stories range from a deployed military mate who needs a wire transfer to get a flight home to a partner traveling abroad who needs cash for customs. No matter their profile or how good their story seems, if they ask for money, it’s a safe bet it’s a scam.
Other signs it’s a scam include:
- Claims they are from the United States but are in another country for military or business reasons
- Wants to visit but comes up with an excuse not to
- Needs money for flights, medical issues, or another emergency
What can you do?
Be wary of anyone asking you to fork over funds in any form. These forms include gift cards, reloadable cards, or cash. Make sure to contact your bank right away if you think you’ve given money to an impostor. To save others from the same mistake, report it to the FTC or FBI internet crimes divisions. Finally, if your new romantic interest seems too good to be true, try a criminal records search.
Pay Up or Go to Prison
Criminals hoping to get your hard-earned money have upped the ante by trying to portray themselves as officials from the very entities that are trying to dismantle their corrupt ways. Scammers will call, email, and even text victims in hopes of scaring them into sending money. Their claim? Usually some form of debt settlement. A favorite tactic for these impostors is to say they are from the FTC or IRS and that you will be arrested if this supposed debt isn’t paid immediately. Here’s the thing, government agencies will never ask you to wire or send money.
What Should You Do If You Suspect a Scam?
The best way to find out if the debt is legit is to call the agency yourself and inquire. If you do owe, they can guide you through the proper channels in settling any outstanding debt. If it turns out that a scammer contacted you, you can report the incident while on the phone with the appropriate agency.
The best defense is a good offense. So, protect yourself by adding your number to the National Do Not Call Registry and avoid giving out personal information over the phone, via text, or email.