U.S. consumers reported losing almost $2.4 billion to imposter scams in 2021 (FTC), so it’s no surprise that scammers adapt this common scam to take on many different forms. An imposter scam is any type of fraud where someone pretends to be someone else in order to steal money or personal information. Let’s take a look at five of the most common types of imposter scams, in no particular order.
The Job Scam
There has been a recent increase in job scams that involve scammers hiring individuals for fake, work-from-home jobs at real companies. The hiring process will typically happen quickly. As soon as you are hired, they will ask you to purchase equipment with your own funds, and promise to reimburse you once you start working. Once you purchase the equipment, they ask you to ship it to them so they can set up your software. After you ship off the equipment for setup, you never hear from the scammer again and you’re left with no reimbursement and no equipment.
Tips to help you spot a job scam:
- Be suspicious of any job that requires you to pay anything up front. No legitimate employer should require you to pay for equipment with your own money.
- Do your research before accepting any job offer. Be sure to look up the company online and read reviews from other employees.
- Trust your gut. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Consult with a trusted family member or friend if you are unsure.
The Dating Scam
A dating scam occurs when someone creates a fake online dating profile in order to defraud someone else out of money. The scammer will usually create a profile on a dating site or app and strike up a relationship before asking their target for money.
Tips to help you spot a dating scam:
- Watch out for people on dating sites that ask to move the conversation away from the original site you met on. This makes it harder for you to report them.
- Compare their dating profile to what they are telling you. If it doesn’t match up, that’s a red flag.
- Be aware of people that profess their love or strong feelings for you in a really short amount of time. This is called love bombing and is a tactic used by scammers to emotionally manipulate their targets.
- If they ask for money, especially in the form of gift cards, money transfer or cryptocurrency, that is always a sign that it’s a scam.
The IRS Scam
An IRS scam is a type of government imposter scam where someone who claims to be from the Internal Revenue Service contacts you and demands that you pay a fictitious tax bill. Often, the scammers will threaten you with arrest or deportation if you do not comply.
Tips to help you spot an IRS scam:
- Keep an eye out for demands for immediate payment—often in the form of gift cards, prepaid debit cards or wire transfer.
- Don’t give in to empty threats to arrest or deport you if you don’t pay up. The IRS doesn’t work like that—they’ll send you a letter in the mail if you owe any money.
- If you are unsure, ask the person contacting you to provide their name, contact information and employee identification number. If they can’t provide this basic information, they’re probably not who they say they are.
The Lottery Scam
A lottery scam involves a scammer convincing you that you have won a lottery or other prize. The scammer will often require you to pay a fee in order to collect the prize. The scammer will often use high-pressure tactics to get you to pay, such as saying that the prize will be forfeited if you do not pay the fees immediately. They might also ask for your bank account information claiming that they will deposit the winnings directly into your account.
Tips to help you spot a lottery scam:
- If you receive an email or call out of the blue informing you that you have won a lottery you don’t remember entering, it is likely a scam. You cannot win a lottery unless you purchase a ticket.
- Scammers will ask you to pay a fee to receive your prize. Legitimate lotteries never charge fees to collect your winnings.
- This is another one of those situations where you should trust your gut. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
The Utility Scam
A utility scam is a fraudulent scheme targeting utility customers, typically involving someone posing as a utility employee or representative. The aim of the scam is to steal money from customers. Oftentimes, these scammers threaten to disconnect your service if you don’t pay an overdue fee immediately.
Tips to help you spot a utility scam:
- If you receive a suspicious phone call or message, contact your utility company directly to verify the identity of the person that contacted you.
- Watch for scammers who threaten to turn off your service immediately if you don’t pay up. Your utility company will never require immediate payment or threaten disconnection without first sending a written notice.
- Be aware of scammers who ask you to pay using gift cards, money transfer apps or cryptocurrency. Scammers love these types of payment methods because they are almost impossible to trace and recover. If they insist you pay using these unconventional payment methods, it’s a scam.
- Be wary of anyone who contacts you out of the blue and asks for personal information or money.
- Be cautious of anyone who is pressuring you for a quick decision.
- Trust your gut. If something feels too good to be true, it probably is. If you are ever unsure, contact a trusted family member or friend for their opinion before sending money or sensitive information.
- If you come across a scam, even if you didn’t lose money, report it!