States ask for federal help in stopping the rise in ‘imposter’ scams

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Attorneys general from 49 states are asking the FTC to take action

Imposter scams – in which criminals pretend to be from government agencies, law enforcement, or various companies – are among the most common and successful scams.

Believe it or not, these schemes are not against federal law. But nearly every state attorney general in the country says they should be. The attorneys general from 49 states have signed a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that urges the agency to draft a national rule to target impersonation scams. 

“Though the methods may vary, imposter scams cause financial harm to consumers, drain resources from regulators tasked with protecting the public, and may cause loss of trust in government services,” said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody. 

The FTC reports that losses from imposter scams last year totaled $2.3 billion. Moody says various state laws address this type of fraud, but she’s calling for more clarity at the national level to help states stop imposter scams. 

In their letter to the FTC, the state officials say a national rule that encompasses and outlaws such commonly experienced scams would assist attorneys general and their partners in reducing harm to consumers.

Social Security scam

According to the FTC, one of the most common imposter scams involves a criminal pretending to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and targeting seniors. Seniors who are dependant on Social Security often become alarmed when they are told their monthly check is in jeopardy.

But the FTC says seniors should remember that the SSA will never call and ask for their Social Security number. It won’t also won't ask them to pay anything or threaten their benefits.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron says his office received over 1,500 reports of impersonation scams in 2021, totaling $9 million in financial losses.

“These scams range from scammers impersonating businesses and charities to family members and loved ones,” Cameron said.  “Regardless of the form these scams take, they are harming Kentucky consumers and businesses.”

Common scams

Other common imposter scams include:

  • Grandparent scam: The caller pretends to be a grandchild in trouble

  • Tech support scam: The caller pretends to be from Microsoft and says your computer is compromised

  • Jury duty scam: The caller threatens you with arrest for failing to appear for jury duty

  • The electric company scam: The caller threatens to cut off your electricity for an unpaid bill

In their letter, the state officials say there is a “pressing need” for action at the federal level. They say such a rule would allow states to access the resources of the U.S. government in “holding bad actors to account.”

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