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 knocking 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 become more sophisticated and are more easily able to reach larger masses of people at once. Impostor scams are particularly dangerous because con artists dupe consumers by gaining their trust. Therefore, BBB reminds you to verify the individual or organization contacting you before you provide 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 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 they will shut off your utility if you don’t pay 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. In addition, the IRS will notify taxpayers before sending their accounts to a private collection agency. So if you get a call first and have yet to learn you owe 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 will prey on a person’s kindness and willingness to help friends and family. 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 accurate 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 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.”
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 calls, texts, or emails. Instead, you call the company you do business with directly to verify the message sent or the phone call received was theirs.
- Go to the source or get help. Call a friend, loved one, or your local BBB to ask for a second opinion when in doubt. Regardless of what they say on the phone conversation, tell someone.
Impersonation is a widespread 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 BBB.org/ScamTips. In addition, if you have been the victim of this or another fraud, make others aware by filing a report on BBB.org/ScamTracker.