Impostor scams have long been among the most lucrative for scammers. While there are many variations of this scam, the most common variations have involved scammers calling their intended victims on the telephone posing as some governmental agency such as the IRS or the Social Security Administration or companies with which many of us do business such as Amazon or Netflix.. The scammer then, under a wide variety of pretenses, demands an immediate payment by gift cards, credit card or wired funds. Being asked to pay by gift cards is a definite indication that the call is a scam since no governmental agency or company that requests or accepts payments by gift cards. Alternatively, the scammer demands the victim supply the phony governmental agent with personal information such as your Social Security number which will then be used for identity theft purposes. While many impostor scams are perpetrated through phone calls, impostor scams are also done through emails and text messages.
Recently, the Federal Trade Commission proposed a new rule to codify that impostor scams violate the law. Specifically the proposed rule would make it a crime to use government seals or counterfeit business logos for scam purposes. The proposed rule would also make it a crime to spoof government and business email and web addresses and to falsely imply that the communication is coming from a government agency or legitimate business. However, it is important to remember that while even if the new rule becomes effective, it will not prevent impostor scams, but only make prosecution of impostor scammers easier.
As I have often reminded you, through the simple technique of “spoofing” it is very easy for a scammer to manipulate your Caller ID to make a call coming to you appear legitimate when it is not. Therefore you can never truly trust your Caller ID. Trust me, you can’t trust anyone.
It is important to remember that the no governmental agency will ever initiate contact with you by phone, email, text message or letter asking you to pay for anything or threaten you with arrest. Also anytime you are asked by anyone posing as a government employee for a payment by a gift card, you can be sure it is a scam because no government agency asks for or accepts payments by gift cards.
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