Member Alert: Imposters Are #1 Type of Fraud!
The Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel project, which tallies up the number and type of consumer complaints received each year received more than 3 million of them in 2016. When it comes to consumer frauds, imposter scams are now leading the list, having exceeded ID theft for the first time since the government started keeping records in 1997. These frauds can be devastatingly costly. Not every consumer reports their losses, but for those that did the losses equal $744.5 million in total.
The FTC continues to try and hunt down these criminals through law enforcement and they work diligently to educate consumers about the warning signs to help prevent victims from losing more money.
What are the most common types of imposter scams to be aware of?
Fake IRS agents reach out to consumers by phone, email or text message claiming you owe money. These imposters threaten to take legal action, and urge you to send payment by money order, cashier’s check or prepaid debit card immediately. In some cases, they insist consumers complete the transaction while they are still on the phone.
A legitimate IRS agent will always first contact you by mail, and the agency accepts multiple payment methods, including checks. The IRS NEVER insists on immediate payment by debit card, cashiers’ check or wire transfer.
Tech Support Scams
A call comes in, and the caller claims to be a Microsoft or Apple technician and informs you that they have detected a problem with your computer. He or she urges you to visit a website, and type a series of keys into your computer, to give the fake support person the ability to control the machine and “fix” whatever is wrong with it.
Alternatively, a pop-up window appears on your screen, warning that your system isn’t secure and you must download security software by clicking on a link. In both cases, the scammer is aiming to download malicious software onto your machine to either steal your data or to hold your machine hostage till you pay some sort of ransom.
Real tech support departments don’t call you out of the blue, nor can they detect problems you haven’t reported. And, you will never find security support for your computer by clicking on a pop-up. Most computers come with security software. All that is required is that you keep yours up-to-date by renewing your annual subscription.
Con artists buy marketing lists, just like retailers do, looking for vulnerable populations to exploit. One common scam exploits grandparents by having a con artist pose as a young relative, who then maintains he or she is out of town and in trouble. The imposter pleads with the grandparent not to tell anyone, and explains the only way out of this bind is for the grandparent to send money via wire transfer.
A quick phone call or text message to your real relative will likely find them at home. Not sure? Tell the caller that you’ll have to call back. If the caller contends that isn’t possible, you know you’re talking to a crook. These scammers use a sense of urgency to get you to part with your cash.
Online Romance Scams
If you have ever signed up for an online romance site, you are a prime target for a romance scam. In this type of fraud, a distant prospective significant other strikes up a conversation and quickly becomes besotted. This faux suitor will claim to want to meet but will be out of town on business, stationed abroad, or living in another country. They may even claim to be tied up caring for a sick or dying relative. Once this person is convinced that you’re hooked, they will start requesting money. Typically, the con artist will claim that some emergency has left him/her in desperate need of cash and ask for your help.
If someone claims to be madly in love with you, even though you’ve never met, it should raise a red flag. If the person has a litany of excuses of why you can’t meet, it’s almost assuredly a con. A request for money is final confirmation that you have fallen victim to an imposter.
If you feel you have been a victim of any of these types of fraud contact the Federal Trade Commission along with the proper authorities.
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