Today, about 47% of Americans have been targeted by an imposter scam. Imposter scams were the number one complaint to the FTC in 2019. The average loss per victim was $700. The total stolen from victims in 2019 was nearly $700 million. With that being said, here are a few of the most common imposter scams and how to spot them.
When it comes to the U.S. government, you always want to avoid three-letter agencies. There is nothing good if the FBI or IRS come knocking at your door. These agencies won’t call you on the phone asking for personal information. If the IRS wants to collect money from you, they will send you letters, usually certified mail.
In addition, the U.S. government is trillions in debt. If they need to collect money, they want real money. The government would never ask for payment by gift cards or cryptocurrency. Another thing is that they don’t give you a call to tell you that your benefits are ending. If you are on social security and they need to contact you, they will do so by mail. Be cautious of phone calls from the federal government.
Family emergency imposters:
It’s scary to get a phone call from a loved one who is having car trouble or is stranded on vacation. The first thing you want to do is help them, which may mean sending money to them. But the most important thing to do if you get a call from a loved one is to be patient. Take the time to do your homework.
If you get a call from a grandson who is lost on vacation, call his parents and other family members. Or hang up and call your loved one directly. Never call the same number that the imposter used. Also, ask questions that only your loved one would know. Be familiar with your loved one's plans and what they share online.
For example, if they are sharing pictures from their current trip to Jamaica then you know that the whole world knows. Which means you need to think about what information is shared, versus what would only be known to you and the loved one. Then craft your questions based on this.
Tech support imposters:
Technology is always changing. Most folks have features on their phones or computers they don’t even know how to use. This is one way imposters will try to gain access to your computer. They might call you and say there is something wrong, but to fix it they need access. If any tech support calls you without you reaching out to them first, be cautious. Tech support doesn't reach out to check-in. They won’t randomly call you or send you a message.
If you receive a pop-up message on your computer with a phone number, never call the number. If it’s legitimate, they will try to resolve the issue through e-mail or chat. Never download anything from a tech support company unless you have called them. If the person on the phone is pushing you to pay, download, or share any personal information, call the company back at a different number.
Imposter scammers lie about who they are. They want to pretend to be someone you're likely to trust. Remember to verify before you trust. By being patient and thorough you can save yourself from a big headache.
Source: Jason Hanson / Cedar City, UT