Imposter scams take many forms, and perhaps because of that, they have become one of the most common ways fraudsters try to separate unsuspecting people from their money.
Here are just a few imposter scams consumers should be aware of, as reported by the Federal Trade Commission:
Someone claims to be from your local utility and threatens to shut off service unless you pay
Someone claims to be from the IRS
Someone claims to be from the Social Security Administration
Someone claims to be a police officer threatening you with arrest unless you pay
Someone claims to be from Microsoft Tech Support saying they need to take control of your computer
You get the picture.
Knowing the red flags is a good defense. For example, knowing that the IRS doesn’t call taxpayers, or that Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and other major companies don’t either, will help you recognize these schemes for what they are.
When it’s not so obvious
When a scam isn’t so obvious, checking the caller’s number is another good way to reveal who is actually placing the call. Truthfinder is a background check service that provides many different functions.
A useful one for sniffing out scams is its reverse phone number lookup service. If the caller claims to be from UPS but the number shows it's a personal cellphone then you know you’re dealing with a scammer.
Whether the contact is a phone call or a text, the company says consumers can search any U.S.-based phone number to access a phone report that pulls data from public records. Reports may have the name connected to the number, whether it's cellular or landline, and may even have additional information.
“We continue to work on our tools that can help our customers avoid text message scams that are so often prevalent during the holidays”, Erica Deforge-Zarza, affiliate manager at TruthFinder, told ConsumerAffairs. “Since the COVID-19 pandemic, online shopping has skyrocketed along with text message scammers. According to the FCC, package delivery scams usually start with a text message pretending to be USPS, UPS, and Amazon. The texts include a fake 'parcel tracking link'; when the link is clicked, it prompts the user to enter their personal information.”
The information about whether the call is being placed from a cellphone or a landline may be particularly helpful since big companies don’t allow the use of personal cellphones.