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Learn How to Spot the Impostor Scammer

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 most common types of fraud committed.

Impostor scams are not new, however, by leveraging technology, they have becoming more sophisticated and are more easily able to reach larger masses of people at once.  Impostor scams are particularly dangerous, because the con artists dupe consumers by gaining their trust. BBB reminds consumers to verify the individual or organization contacting you before providing them with any information.

“Pretending to be the IRS, court officials, well-known sweepstakes company officials, or even someone you love, “said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “Impostor scammers make their living by conning 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.

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.”


  • 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.

Learn more tips on how to avoid scams by going to If you have been the victim of this or another scam, make others aware by filing a report on


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