An imposter scam occurs when an individual, or a group of people, trick victims into sending money or providing confidential information. Your confidential information is then used to steal your money or identity.
Imposter scams are conducted using various methods. A phone call used to be the most popular but has since been replaced with emails and texts.
Popular Impersonation Techniques
Imposter scams impersonate a trusted source, such as:
- A family member, that the imposter states, is a relative in serious trouble and in need of money.
- A court official. Imposter states that fines are due immediately for failing to appear for jury duty.
- The Police, stating that you will be arrested, fined, or deported if you do not make a payment immediately.
- The Social Security Administration, claiming that you have a refund or that your benefits will be suspended.
- The IRS, stating that you owe taxes or that they need to verify information.
- Banks claiming that they need to verify your information.
- Delivery services, such as FedEx and UPS, claiming to have your package.
- A Tech Support team, where imposters state that they need to fix a problem with your computer.
How to Protect Yourself
- Check with the actual agency or individual. Verify that the entity contacting you is legitimate before giving out information. If you are given a phone number, research the accuracy of the number before you call.
- Offers of payment via gift card, wire transfers, or crypto should always be red flags.
- Do not click on links or attachments that appear suspicious.
- Be aware of calls from government agencies or financial institutions who call to verify your information or state that you owe money.
- Do not fully trust caller ID’s as they can easily be spoofed.
- Do not react immediately based on pressure from the imposter, especially if the request calls for sending money quickly and secretly.
Despite the sophistication of modern impersonation scam techniques, there are simple ways to protect yourself and your identity. The red flags identified in this article decrease your risk of an attack. For additional information and best practices, explore the rest of our Information Security posts.
Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information. “IRS Imposter Scams Infographic.” January 2020, https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0519-irs-imposter-scams-infographic