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Impersonation & Imposter Scams


Imposter and Impersonation Scams

We’ve talked a lot about the different way scammers try to get your money. Fake investments, sob stories, incredible deals during the holidays, the list goes on and on! At the core of these nefarious schemes are criminals pretending to be someone else. Their ability to convince their victims they are a real government official, love interest, or bank representative is what enables them to manipulate their targets into handing over money.

In this article, we’re going to review some of the some of the common impersonation scams you may encounter, and how to recognize them.


Common Types of Imposter Scams

While scammers can pretend to be anyone, these are some of the most common impersonations.

1.Government Imposter Scams-It is important to remember that government agencies will most likely choose to contact you by a physical letter first before they may escalate to calls or even emails. It can be frightening to receive a message from someone claiming to be from the IRS or Social Security letting you know you owe money or have issues with your benefits, but it is important to slow down and not make quick decisions. If the call or text seems legitimate, reach out to a verified number for the organization, and do not click on any links or reply to the number you received the message from.

2.Tech Support Scams-It can be common to receive phone calls from scammers alerting you to an issue on your computer. They will attempt to remotely access your device, or ask for passwords, money, or other sensitive information.

3.Charity Scams- These scams may involve areal or made up charity—but all funds go directly to the scammer. Make sure to research any charities you are unfamiliar with, and if you choose to donate, give the money directly to the charity, not to the person soliciting the donation. You can search tax exempt organizations on the IRS’ website to verify if a charity is real.

4.Family Scams- Believe it or not, scammers may even attempt to impersonate members of your family or even friends! Information about family and friends can be found out in the open in places like social media, so scammers may have an idea about your relations. They will ask for money while posing as a relative, saying it is for an emergency. If you suspect this might be real—verify their identity by either calling a number you know belongs to your family member or ask a question only the real person would know the answer to. Some families even come up with “passphrases”: words or phrases that they come up with that only members of the family know.

5.Bank/Company Scams- Similar to the government imposter scams, bank and company scams involve scammers sending a text message informing you that urgent action is needed. The reason could be for a compromised account, missed payment, drop in service, etc. It is important in these situations to verify that the messages are legitimate before taking any action. Call or message the institution using verified contact channels to confirm the information before clicking on any links!

6.Celebrities- Believe it or not, scammers even impersonate celebrities! On social media, you can give yourself any name and use any pictures you want, so it can be easy to pretend to be someone else. Be wary if you receive unsolicited messages from ‘celebrities’. Accounts with low follower counts that are not verified (usually a little blue check) are suspicious and more often than not, are not the celebrity they claim to be.

Recognizing Imposter Scams

While the list of imposter scams we went through above is by no means exhaustive, there are a few ways you can identify a scammer without having to know all the possible people and institutions they can impersonate!

Like we have said in previous scam awareness articles: the biggest red flag that you are most likely being scammed is when you are asked for money. Especially if you are asked to wire money, send cash through the mail, send cryptocurrency, or use gift cards; these are the top methods scammers prefer to be paid in as there are less safeguards that can help you get your money back.

Even if you are fairly certain that you are not the potential victim of a scam, take a moment to verify the sender. Did you solicit the message? Did the sender let you know in some way they would text you?

Reach out to the institution or person to verify that what they are telling you is legitimate. Do not do this by replying to the message you received, but instead use a verified contact method to reach out. If the scammer is pretending to be a family member, ask them something that only that family member would know.

The FBI has also come up with a checklist that highlights many of the ways you can know you are likely being scammed.


What to do if you’ve been scammed

If you have given any personal information away to the scammer regarding any sensitive accounts, make sure to contact the bank or institution. You might also want to update your password as well to keep your account secure.

If you have sent money, reporting the fraud to the bank can sometimes help you get the money back, but often it will be too late. You can report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission here.


Protecting yourselves from online criminals is unfortunately a full-time job! Remember to always take a moment and pause before you take any action online or reply to someone you don’t know. A simple Google search or phone call to your institution can save you a headache! Don’t let scammers use fear or the promise of an incredible deal to get you to make rash actions that can jeopardize your financial wellbeing.




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