Imposter scams occur when criminals pretend to be someone you know and trust, such as a government agency, a financial institution or even a friend or family member. According to the Federal Trade Commission, imposter scams are on the rise. There is an increased likelihood that you will be contacted by an imposter, however, with a little education and prevention, you can keep from becoming a victim.
How do imposter scams work?
Imposter scams rely on a victim’s sense of trust. Most people inherently trust well-known businesses and government agencies and would not expect to be scammed. Also, people are more likely to comply with unexpected requests or communications from what they deem a trusted source.
Criminals have been known to use email, texts, and particularly, phone calls to dupe victims. Often, they will mimic logos or spoof email addresses and phone numbers to appear as if the communication comes from a legitimate source. They may also have pieces of your confidential information including full name, address, date of birth and social security number – at least enough to convince the victim that the request is real.
The message from imposters is usually an urgent warning that requires immediate attention. Add in a threat of legal action, or potential consequences, and the victim turns their focus to solving the problem and less towards questioning the source.
Common types of Imposter Scams
- IRS Imposter Scam – A victim receives a call they believe is from the IRS. The imposter claims the victim owes back taxes and threatens legal action, suspension of license, arrest and even deportation. To resolve the issue quickly, the victim can put money on a prepaid debit card and provide the numbers to the scammer, wire funds to a disclosed account, or send cash through peer-to-peer payment.
- Tech Support Scams – In this scenario, scammers impersonate computer technicians or technical experts from your internet provider. The goal might be to sell you something you don’t need, talk you out of your credit card information, or to provide them access to your computer. Once a stranger has access to your computer, they can install malware or steal confidential information directly from your device.
- Online Dating Scams – This type of scammer develops a relationship with the victim to build trust. Usually elusive, most of the communication is conducted online, through emails or texts, voice over IP or phone calls, through fake profiles and pictures. The scammer uses emotional manipulation to request money from the victim for plane tickets, fake wedding plans, surgical expenses, or other financial emergencies. Once the money is gone, the scammer usually disappears.
- Grandchildren Scams – This scam preys on the vulnerable, reaching out as a family member that needs money to get out of a bad situation. Typically, it is an urgent request and must be kept secret.
How did the person calling know so much about me?
Criminals are adept at social engineering. With minimal effort, they can easily find Information about your education, work history, and relationships through a variety of public records. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram or job boards like LinkedIn or Glassdoor can provide a wealth of information to include names of family, friends and coworkers, pets, birthdays, addresses, places you’ve recently visited and more.
Often, more detailed information can be found as a result of data breaches. Information such as email addresses, credit card information, financial services and partial social security numbers. With enough leading information, criminals can easily extract the rest directly from their victim. It is common for scam calls to increase after large data breaches. The caller may impersonate a retailer or your bank informing you that your debit or credit card has been compromised and they can help you resolve the issue. All they need is a bit more information from you.
Public records are widely available from the city level on up to the federal. Property, census and other legal records are accessible to anyone. Some private companies are even known to compile public information for resale because it is legal and profitable. That type of information in the hands of a scammer is a goldmine.
Protect your Confidential Information.
Your personal information is valuable. Protect it as you would your other personal property. Be cautious of how you share your personal information and the ways you share it.
- Be cautious of what you reveal on social media platforms.
- Be vigilant about websites you visit before entering personal information.
- Be wary of contests, surveys and warranties that accumulate information.
How to Protect Yourself.
- Do not engage scammers. Simply hang up the phone or delete that text or email. Responding can result in more calls, texts and emails.
- Caller ID can be spoofed. Scammers can make it look like their calls are coming from trusted institutions, so don’t automatically assume that call is legitimate.
- Take a deep breath and resist the urge to act immediately.
- Do not pay anyone over unsolicited phone calls, texts or email.
- Legitimate companies would never seek payment by gift card. Never pay by wire transfer, gift card, or prepaid card over the phone.
- Register for the Do Not Call Registry to help reduce calls.
- Report scam calls to the FTC at donotcall.gov or by calling 877-382-4357.
Protect your Bank Account.
At Bank Independent, your security is our priority. We are proud to offer secure, digital banking channels through our Sync Online and Mobile Banking. You can monitor transactions, set notices and alerts, temporarily freeze your debit card, or report a lost or stolen card all within the app. You can contact our diligent and helpful Customer Service team Monday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., or within the Sync app through Conversations.
If you ever have concerns about the legitimacy of a communication from Bank Independent, we recommend you contact us directly, log into online or mobile Sync app to verify transactions, use the secure Conversations feature to begin a chat or call our Customer Service team.