Imposter scams often begin with a call, text message, email or direct message through social media. The scams may vary, but most work the same way – a scammer pretends to be someone you trust to convince you to send them money or share personal information. They often use fear tactics and pressure you to respond quickly.
These imposters may ask you to transfer money from your bank, wire money using a company like Western Union or MoneyGram, put money on a gift card, or send cryptocurrency, because they know these types of payments can be hard to reverse.
Scammers will call, email, text, or message you and may claim to be:
- A family member (or someone acting for them), saying your relative is sick, injured, has been arrested, or is in serious trouble and needs money right away.
- From Social Security, claiming that COVID-19-related office closures mean your benefits have been suspended.
- A court official, indicating that you failed to appear for jury duty and need to pay a fine or you will be arrested.
- The police, saying you’ll be arrested, fined or deported if you don’t pay taxes or some other debt right away.
- From the IRS, saying you owe back taxes, there’s a problem with your return, or they need to verify information.
- From your bank, claiming a need to verify personal information before they can send you a new debit or credit card.
- From online merchants (Amazon, eBay, etc.), stating your account is locked and you need to verify or update your account or payment information.
- From a tech service, stating your computer is infected with a virus and they need to be granted remote access.
Follow these tips to help protect your money and personal information:
- Be suspicious of any call from a government agency asking for money or information. Government agencies don’t use threats and they don’t call you with promises of – or demands for – money.
- Don’t trust caller ID – it can be faked.
- Never pay with a gift card, wire transfer, or cryptocurrency to anyone who tells you to.
- Check with the real agency, person, or company. Don’t use the phone number they give you. Look it up yourself.
- Use extreme caution when clicking links in emails or when downloading or opening file attachments. Links can redirect you to unsecure webpages or forms and file attachments can contain viruses. If you are uncertain, check with the sender it appears to be from before taking any actions.
- Report it. If you spot an imposter scam, report it to the FTC at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/. Your report can help the FTC’s investigators identify and stop imposters.