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Impersonation is a popular tactic among cybercriminals today. By putting enough space between them and their victims, the internet makes it easy for scammers to pose as government agents, representatives of well-known organizations, and even loved ones via emails, direct messages, phone calls, etc.
Once they have your trust, these fraudsters will try to coerce you into handing over private information, such as your social security number, credit card details and login credentials. Understanding which imposter scams are the most common will help you protect yourself and your loved ones against them.
1. Government agency scams
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the most common type of imposter scam involves individuals claiming to work for the U.S. government. In fact, there have been over 1.3 million reports of government imposters and more than $540 million stolen since 2014.
From the scammers’ point of view, you’re more likely to hand over private information if you believe they are coming from a place of authority. For example, someone pretending to be from the IRS might call or email you with a claim that you haven’t paid all of your taxes yet. And to pay the remaining amount, all you have to do is give them your credit card details. Never provide information like that over the phone or in an email. Instead, hang up and/or delete the message. The IRS will never reach out via email or phone, anyway.
2. Disaster relief scams
Whenever there’s a health disaster, like the coronavirus outbreak, or natural disaster, like the recent fires in California, scammers will use it as an opportunity to steal from those who want to help. The idea is to take advantage of people when they are in an emotional, vulnerable state.
The fraudster will claim to be from a health agency or charity, calling you, sending emails and texts or even showing up at your front door. Remember, official government and charity workers are not allowed to receive money from donors over phone, email or text, and they are required to carry identification with them when going door-to-door.
3. Grandchildren scams
Some scams are specifically designed to trick elderly folks who are more sensitive and less tech-savvy. The scammer will do research on social media sites like Facebook (or hack into their private accounts) to learn key information about the target and their family.
Once they have enough background knowledge and necessary contact information, they’ll call or send an email to the target, pretending to be one of their grandkids asking for help. They might say that they are in jail and need money for bail, or that they are stuck with a hefty medical bill.
Make sure your parents and grandparents are aware of this increasingly popular scam. And if you’re ever in this kind of situation, always double check the phone number or email address before taking any action.
4. Online dating scams
In 2019, $201 million was stolen from users of various dating websites and apps.
The scam is simple: Someone makes a fake profile, starts a relationship with an unsuspecting user, gains their trust and then asks them for money. In order to keep the ruse going, they’ll often chat with the other person multiple times a day either online or over the phone.
Then, the scammer will make up a story to trick the target into wiring them money. This could involve paying for an important surgery, getting out of debt or purchasing a flight to come visit them. If you engage in online dating, be careful with who you talk to. And if another user starts asking you for money, end the relationship.
Learn more about protecting yourself and your loved ones from cybercriminals by visiting us at Total Defense today!