Guest Column | Let’s talk about impersonation scams

It’s National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) 2023 and it couldn’t come at a better time. The FTC’s recently released top frauds of 2022 have impersonation scams at #1 again. So, this NCPW, let’s talk with friends, family, and neighbors about spotting and avoiding these impersonation scams.

These scams are designed to be hard to spot: it looks like an email from your bank, logo and all. But logos are easily faked.

That call has the right caller ID. But technology makes phone numbers easy to fake. Here are some ways to know what’s real and what’s fake:

What did they ask you for? Your bank has your account (and Social Security) number — it will not call or email you to get that information. And nobody legitimate will ever get in touch to demand access to your computer. No matter who they say they are, anyone who demands information or access like this is a scammer.

Did they tell you to pay? The government doesn’t demand money by email, text, phone call, or message on social media. Honest businesses don’t, either. If someone does, you know it’s a scam.

How did they tell you to pay? Nobody legitimate — really: nobody — will ever demand that you pay with cryptocurrency, by wiring money through a company like MoneyGram or Western Union, or by putting money on a gift card. Who will? Scammers.

Did they threaten you? Honest businesses won’t say you’ll be arrested, deported, or lose your license unless you pay. Neither will the government. If someone does, you know it’s a scammer.

Both research and experience say that talking about scams is one of the best ways to avoid them. So, this NCPW, ask yourself these questions when you get that out-of-the-blue message. Then tell someone about the scam you just spotted. And then tell the FTC:

(Samuel Levine is an employee of the Federal Trade Commission.)

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