Imposter Scams: How to Stay Safe From the Top Fraud of 2023

imposter scams

Do you believe you are up to date on scamming methods? You might want to hold that thought. Every year, scammers develop new strategies and methods of carrying out scamming activities.

Notwithstanding the various types of scams, imposter scams currently rank as the top fraud in the United States. According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers lost $2.7 billion to imposter scams in 2023 alone. In certain situations, a scam would be a mix of different methods, i.e. impersonation and threats in a single scam.

With the introduction of cutting-edge technology such as artificial intelligence, fraudsters have access to digital tools that make it easier to deceive and scam people. And while you cannot stop scammers from trying, you can protect yourself and stay safe from their deceptive tactics.

How to Identify an Imposter in Phone Scams

Phone scams come in different shapes and forms. However, the scammers’ goal is always the same: to trick you into sending them money or revealing your personal information so they can use it for fraudulent purposes.

The first thing to look out for in a phone scam is how the conversation appears to be rehearsed or pre-recorded. Most often, the caller does not mention any personal information that specifically identifies you. The caller might try to establish trust by claiming to be a reputable company.

Fraudsters usually create a sense of urgency by giving deadlines or making statements such as “This is a limited offer.” And lastly, if it feels too good to be true, it is probably because it is not true.

Examples of Common Imposter Scams Over the Phone

Phone scammers can carry out a scam in several ways using cell phones. It could come in the form of an advertisement for an investment opportunity, a notification for a free vacation, or a threat of an arrest warrant.

The notification of a free vacation or a prize could be sent through text messages, phone calls, or voice mail. The text messages usually have a format similar to this, “Congratulations! You have been selected as a lucky winner for a free vacation trip and other prizes. To claim your reward, you need to..”

Usually, every scam through a free prize makes a demand for your personal information or money or both.

Impersonation

Impersonation is a key ingredient in a lot of scamming methods. To impersonate, the scammer could steal the identity of your family member, a company, or a person you trust.

An example is pretending to be a company or the representative of a fake charity conducting a fundraiser. Such fake charities are usually accompanied by very emotional stories to manipulate listeners into making donations.

To avoid falling victim to an imposter scam, ask as many questions as possible. You can demand a means of identification so you can verify their claims and demands. You can also ask specific questions. For example, in the case of donations, ask about the physical location of the charity organization or the company.

Government Agencies Won’t Call to Confirm Your Sensitive Information

scam number

Scammers pretend to work with government agencies such as the IRS or Social Security. Sometimes, the purpose of calling is to manipulate you into providing them with important personal details about you such as your social security number. Remember that if they work for Social Security, they should already have your information.

Fake calls from the IRS could come in the form of a threat. This method always ends in a demand for money. Do not fall for it.

You Won’t Be Arrested

Scammers pretending to be calling from the IRS could claim that you have not been paying certain dues or you owe money. They might also claim that you have defaulted to pay taxes.

These claims are usually accompanied by a threat of arrest for not paying taxes or deportation for immigrants. Oftentimes, the scammer would proceed to provide you with information on how to pay directly to them to avoid the trouble threatened.

Do Not Trust Your Caller ID

Never trust scammers, because what you see might not be real. A text message or unwanted calls can come in the form of a spoof. A spoof is when fraudsters claim to be someone you know or a business.

To achieve this, they might use digital tools that change information transmitted to your caller ID display. It might seem like a call from a nearby location; meanwhile, the fraudster might be calling from any part of the world.

By spoofing a call number, the scammer could message you claiming to be a friend in trouble or an emergency. Fraudsters use the person’s phone number or contact information to make themselves believable in case a background check is conducted.

Imposter Scams Using Prizes and Lottery

Prize scams always have a compelling story. Sometimes they sound like a fairytale, which is probably because they are all false. Some prize scams include a lottery in their storyline.

A lottery and prize scam convinces you that you won a lottery that you do not remember being a part of. Our best guess is that you do not remember because it never happened. The scam could be a message saying that you were randomly selected as a lucky winner from a raffle draw for a large sum of money, attractive gifts such as expensive phones, or a vacation.

There Is No Prize

The storyline in prize scams might be different, and the scammer might not be the same, but they all share something in common. There is no prize.

After informing the victim about winning an attractive reward, scammers often ask that person to carry out certain actions to “claim their reward.”

If the purpose of the scam is to steal personal information, the listener would be asked to provide them with certain information, such as a social security number or bank account details. If the purpose of the scam is to steal money, the listener would be asked to pay an amount of money.

Test Your Ability to Identify Scammers

fake calls

Identify which of these choices looks like a scam. The first choice: Your friend is celebrating their birthday, so they are offering a free trip to the Bahamas for you and your friends.

The second choice: You receive a message talking about a massive investment opportunity for which you have been selected; you are to invest a sum of money, and they will double the amount you send.

The second option is a scam. Report it promptly.

The main sign of a scam is that it often begins with a call from a stranger with a friendly offer or a threat and ends with a request to wire money or send a gift card or your details.

As the popular saying goes, if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. If the description given above matches your experience, it is most likely a scam.

Only Scammers Demand That You Make a Payment in Certain Ways

Another way of recognizing scams is how you are asked to pay. Most times, scammers demand that victims pay using methods that make it difficult for them to recover their money. These payment methods often involve payment using online payment services, bank transfers, or gift cards.

Also, the demand for money in scams is always in the form of an emergency. This is so they can make away with the money before they are discovered.

What to Do If You Gave a Scammer Your Personal Information

If you already gave a scammer your bank account number, you need to immediately call your bank to report the incident. This is to protect your bank account.

You can contact the Federal Communications Commission to report the number used in the scam.

Conclusion

Dealing with scammers could be an exhausting experience. This is why you need to protect yourself. Scammers usually attempt to convince people with a fake story to reveal information such as passwords or credit card details or send money.

If you notice any suspicious activity, report it immediately to the appropriate government agency. Also, consider call blocking to avoid potential scammers from contacting you in the future.

FAQ

How can I protect myself from scammers?

If you suspect the caller is a scammer, you can conduct a background check using Nuwber to verify the identity of the caller. Another way is to hang up and contact the organization via the phone number listed on their official website.

Remember to never give out personal information or financial details over the phone to unknown callers.

What can I do if I answer a scammer’s call?

If you suspect the call is from a scammer, do not continue engaging with them. Instead, disconnect the call, block the number, and report immediately.

Can a scammer get into my phone?

Scammers can access your phone through various means, such as phishing attempts, malware, or social engineering tactics. Don’t click malicious links or download apps from untrusted sources. And don’t let a sophisticated scammer persuade you into sharing sensitive information or granting them access to your device.

What is identity theft?

A fraudster can pretend to be your family member, contact your home phone using your loved one’s voice, or act like a business to commit fraud. To expose a scammer or make sure this is a call from your loved one, ask some personal questions that only your family member would know.

Do companies protect their consumers from fraud?

Both consumers and companies have a role to play in protecting against fraud.

As a consumer, you can protect yourself by being cautious with your personal information and monitoring your accounts regularly for any suspicious activity. Companies, in turn, can implement security measures such as encryption and two-factor authentication to help prevent fraud.

Eugene Kirdzei
Eugene Kirdzei

Chief Technical Officer at Nuwber
With nearly two decades of experience in the IT industry, Eugene possesses comprehensive knowledge across his professional field, including in data management, data protection, and information search. Through his writing, he aims to provide valuable insights and practical advice on how to safely explore the online environment and leverage digital tools to enhance people’s lives.