What is an Imposter Scam? The term describes a type of illegal activity where charlatans deceive their victims into voluntary money transfers. Bluffing, psychological pressure, excessive cheer, and sudden requests to make an immediate decision are among the primary tricks of such conmen. The following article’s task is to familiarize readers with the most typical forms of imposter scams, so in the future, you will be able to recognize and to evade this sad case of criminal activity.
Recognizing A Scammer – Top 5 Most Common Types Of Imposter Scams
Imposter Scam #1 – “Tech Support”
Imagine you get a call from a so-called representative of your Internet provider, or some prominent company, like Microsoft or Apple. They claim that your computer caught some kind of a virus that can be eradicated with the help of the special paid (!) software.
In some cases, they can even offer to set up remote access to your device to do that. 9 out of 10 such cases are by no means a call from the real network services provider but from an imposter scammer. Their goal is to make you pay for absolutely useless software or, what’s worse, thoughtlessly turn your computer into one of the botnet’s nods.
In the exemplary case of a “tech support” scam involving a “virus”, described in an online review on PissedConsumer.com, the user was charged with $500 by an imposter software company to fix an issue. The criminals even had the audacity to increase the required sum with time:
“…They hit me with a $500 fix? They opened up a Paypal credit account for me. I haven’t paid a penny yet and probably won’t. They keep telling me via a pop-up that I have eight infected files…”
Imposter Scam #2 – “Save A Relative” (“Grandkid”)
One of the most practiced kinds of imposter scams is when a conman calls you up, introduces him/herself as one of your relatives, and claims to have gotten into some trouble. They usually claim to call from the police station, and the conversation takes no more than a couple of seconds. Their phone, then, is presumably taken by the officer of the law (e.g., investigator) who describes the delicate situation your “relative” has got him/herself into. Mostly, this situation implies the possession or distribution of drugs.
Thus, an investigator-imposter inclines you to transfer a certain amount of money to deal with the situation unofficially. Basically, they suggest paying for not opening the criminal case and for letting your relative go. The peculiar moment in such a “suggestion” is the fact that the criminal persuades you to stay on call so that you’re unable to personally call up some of your relatives or a real police station. The stated reason for that is that their set of your relative free is also illegal, and they want to make sure that afterward, they won’t be threatened by law themselves.
In case a victim trusts such an imposter, surely it seems right to agree to the offered terms. However, you may think: “How are relatives unable to recognize their own brother/son/grandkid’s voice and can trust an imposter?”. Well, first of all, as we mentioned, the relative-imposter only takes a few seconds to plead for help. Besides, they usually cover their phone’s microphone to muffle their voice.
Yet another moment where – the imposters usually pick the elderly as victims, who can’t hear that well due to their age (also notice that in our times of extensive informational availability, it’s not that difficult to find a database with phone numbers and info on their owners on the web). Also, one can receive a scam call during the night or early in the morning. The victim would be shocked and act spontaneously due to the half-awakened state of mind.
Imposter Scam #3 – Tax Office Or An FBI Scam Call
Basically, a private enterprise’s owner gets a call presumably from a tax office and is warned that their establishment is to be bombarded with serious inspections. In such a manner, the owner will either have to pay an unavoidable penalty charge or to prepare for their establishment to get shut down completely. Next, the victim, being in a stressful state of mind, is offered an immediate resolution, which implies a certain sum of money. According to the IRS imposter, this sum would be much smaller than that of the mentioned penalty charge.
We, also, cannot but mention a case where imposters, introducing themselves as agents from the IRS or US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), demand migrants from India that shifted their place of residence to the USA to pay for a penalty charge immediately (otherwise, the migrants, allegedly, risk arrest or deportation). The owners of small and average businesses are most susceptible to this scam as, obviously, their phone numbers are easily obtained.
They can usually be found in public access as on business cards and official websites. FBI phone call scam is similar in nature – an imposter calls you up on the phone (they usually use VoIP protocol to hide their real phone number via spoofing), introduces him/herself as an FBI officer, and charges you with some kind of felony.
In most cases, an imposter convicts you of things every other person is susceptible to doing – e.g., unpaid taxes or some overdue payments. An “officer” promises to free the victim of any trial if a money transfer occurs at once. The charges, as you may have guessed, are all made up – the criminal just tries to make money out of ordinary people’s trust.
Imposter Scam #4 – Lottery Prize
As opposed to the previous types of scams, like an FBI phone call scam, in this case, criminals act with explicit suddenness, trying to inject into the victim’s mind the feeling of euphoria from the win. You get a phone call or an email saying that you won a jackpot either in the form of money or a certain prize (a car, for example). Most probably, the imposters will act as representatives of some prominent organizations.
To get the prize, you are asked to pay a formal fee (which is ridiculously small compared to the prize amount/cost). Eventually, as you must have guessed – the victim pays for nothing and doesn’t get a thing. People come across scam lotteries on the web almost on a regular basis.
Some internet lotteries try to seem like the real ones until the very end, and you can find out how deceived you were long after you are congratulated with the win, checked, and included in the winners’ list. Others are a scam from the get-go; they don’t provide any wins whatsoever. One of the Pissed Consumer users complained that they didn’t give any prizes.
“…for missing only 20 hours without playing, you find so much email telling you that you are the next winner if you enter and play. I wasted my money and time playing. they used to send me an email saying I almost won but after checking found that that game was a past year…”
Imposter Scam #5 – A New Social Network Or Dating Website Friend
New friends from social networks trying hard to gain your trust are a part of yet another kind of imposter scam. They engage in continuous informal conversations with the victims for several weeks or even months. Then, the victim gets a message where financial help is requested. As an option, you can be asked to transfer money for visa procurement or ticket purchase (this is commonly done by foreign women who, according to their legend, wish to visit your country or to move there completely).
As a result, once the money is transferred, the “friends” immediately delete their profile, making it practically impossible to find them – they can be situated anywhere in the world.
Widespread cases presently are social media and free dating sites military scams. So-called men or women soldiers friend you and in the subsequent conversations tell all about how they are fighting somewhere in the Far East, missing home and extremely lacking in money.
The scammers’ objective here is to pressure your sense of humanity by requesting help. Surely, right after the money transfer takes place, money is withdrawn, the imposter’s account is closed, and there is no way to find them. Among the real examples of such scams is a case where a man claiming to be an army ranger stationed in Iraq lead conversations with the victim during the week only to start asking for $400 so that he could call his “son who is in Australia”. The scam, which goes in its audacity far beyond the pissed consumer range.
How To Not Become A Victim Of Imposter Scams?
In order to be insusceptible to imposter scams, all you should do is to remember three simple rules:
- Rule#1. Never trust a person that acts as a representative of a government or private organization that requests payments for yet unseen lottery or other kinds of prizes as they simply have no right to do so (they may, however, deduct some fees/taxes and pay you the lesser amount, but never upfront). Tax organizations, in their turn, request payments via an ordinary post office and to never use the phone number or an email.
- Rule#2. Never trust a person that acts as a government representative that requests money transfers onto their personal bank card to pay for some services (like it happens in cases of the FBI and IRS imposter scams) as they also have no right to do so. If you are told that some of your relatives have got into trouble and urgently need money – put down the phone immediately and try to either contact the relative yourself or to turn to law enforcement.
- Rule#3. Always make sure of who you are talking to on the phone. The presence of a familiar caller’s identifier on your phone screen doesn’t always mean that you are to talk to the right person and not an imposter. The criminals disguise themselves as someone else employing spoofing technology to trick their victims into money transfers. The same goes for emails.
In case you or some of your friends or relatives have personally come across such a sad situation:
- leave your letter of complaint on the FTC official website or
- tell all about it to the Treasury Inspector-General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) online or by the contact number 800-366-4484.
We hope that the information presented in this article helps you and your close ones avoid the sad cases of imposter scams. Unfortunately, there are and always will be unworthy people who take advantage of other people’s trust with the help of the widespread and openly available means of communication and info acquisition.
We recommend taking this piece of information into account, all the more if you are still unfamiliar with some of the scam types. Be careful, and before transferring any money to the stranger’s card, clarify the nature of their intentions.
If you are interested in even more technology-related articles and information from us here at Bit Rebels, then we have a lot to choose from.