A host of scams is making their rounds, all with one thing in common: Someone is claiming to be someone they are not. Impostor scams conducted by email, phone calls, social media and even knocks at your door have become one of the fastest growing frauds in America.
While impostor scams have been around for many years, with the help new technology and new devices, they are becoming more sophisticated and scam artists are more easily able to reach larger masses of people at once. Impostor scams are particularly dangerous, because the con artists dupe consumers by claiming to be almost anyone. They are making a living by pretending to be the IRS, court officials, well-known sweepstakes company officials, or even your grandchild. BBB reminds consumers to verify the individual or organization contacting you before providing them with any information.
“Impostor scams come in all shapes and sizes, “said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “But they all have the same goal…to trick you out of your money and/or personal information.”
Impostor Scams and How They Work:
Power/utility scam: Utility company impostors typically reach out via a telephone call or knock on your door claiming to be a representative from the local water, electric, or gas company. In the most common scenario, the fraudster will say a payment is overdue and the utility will be shut off if you don’t pay up immediately.
Phony banking texts/Phishing schemes: You receive a text message allegedly from a bank, alerting you of fraudulent activity on your account. You may or may not have an account at that bank. The con artists might even know your account number. They use a variety of messages and techniques, but the desired outcome is the same. They want you to give them information, the key to your money.
IRS impostors: There are many ways to tell if a call about tax debt is a fraudulent IRS call. According to the IRS, people with overdue taxes will always receive multiple contacts, including letters and phone calls, from the IRS first. The IRS will also notify taxpayers before sending their accounts to a private collection agency. If you get a call first and had no idea you owed taxes, be cautious and skeptical.
Emergency scam (also called grandparent scams or family/friend scams): This scheme involves the impersonation of a friend or family member in a fabricated
urgent or dire situation. Emergency calls prey on a person’s kind nature and willingness to help friends and family in need. Con artists impersonate their targets’ loved ones, make up an urgent situation, and plead for help and money. Thanks to social media sites, these people can offer plausible stories and incorporate nicknames and real travel plans into the con to convince their targets.
Favor for a friend scam. This is a version of an emergency scam. However, instead of a major crisis, the scammers is asking for a small favor. It can be easy to fall for these cons because the stories are believable and the money amounts are much lower. For example, in this scam, a “friend” needs money for groceries after misplacing their wallet. Just like with an emergency scam, always check directly with your friend before sending any cash.
Tech Support scams: A tech support rep calls you at home and offers to fix a computer bug that you haven’t even noticed, or a popup warning appears on your screen instructing you to dial a number for help. In this con, scammers pose as tech support employees of well-known computer companies and hassle victims into paying for their “support.”
Better Business Bureau. That’s right, BBB is an often-impersonated company. Many of these scams target small businesses. Scammers call, text, or email to collect unpaid “dues” or email dangerous links or attachments that they claim are related to “complaints,” or various other excuses. While a BBB office may indeed contact a business for a variety of reasons, you should never give personal or financial information over the phone during an unsolicited call from someone you do not know. End the call or close the email, and call back through the number listed in the BBB.org Directory.
TIPS TO AVOID IMPOSTOR SCAMS:
- Stay calm. If you receive any of these impostor calls, resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is or how threatening or intimidating the caller sounds.
- Don’t reply directly. Don’t respond to the call, text, or email. Instead, call the company or person directly to verify the message that was sent or the phone call received.
- Go to the source or get help. When in doubt, call a friend, loved one or your local BBB to ask for a second opinion. Regardless of what is said in the phone conversation, tell someone.
Impersonation is a very common tactic used by scammers. Go to the BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report to find out more.
FOR BBB INFORMATION:
Visit BBB.org to look up a business, file a complaint, write a customer review, read tips, follow us on social media, and more.