Imposter Scams: That May Not Actually Be Your Bank Calling
People use the phone to communicate with all sorts of legitimate businesses. You may call your bank to ask questions about your account. You will pick up calls from shipping facilities, or even take calls from important individuals, such as IRS officials.
Scammers use this reliance on telephone communications to take advantage of trusting people. Every time you give out information over the phone, you need to make sure you’re not inadvertently giving scammers your personal data. Here’s how to avoid becoming a victim.
What Sort of Imposter Scams Exist?
Imposter scams are some of the most widely known scams across the internet. Even pre-internet, people were scamming others by pretending to be important and trustworthy. In the early 20th century, one of the most famous original con men pretended to be a government official to sell the Eiffel Tower.
Although there’s no complete list of imposter scams, they tend to fall into a few particular genres. When calling a target, a scammer often pretends to be:
- a financial institution, such as a bank
- a government official, such as an employee from the IRS or SSA
- a law enforcement official, such as a sheriff or deputy
- a charitable organization raising money for a cause
If you’ve fallen for another type of scam, it may be followed up by an imposter scam. Viruses, for example, may show a message saying that you need to call a tech support number. You might then be asked by a scammer to provide access to your computer.
How Do They Do It?
Imposter scams are, at their core, incredibly simple. All a scammer has to do is convince you that he or she is legitimate, because people are conditioned to accept that they need to give out certain information to legitimate officials. Scammers can even get people to give out their Social Security Number, bank account information, or credit card information just by saying the right things.
Most of the time, this is based on simple authority tactics. When impersonating an employee from the IRS, for example, a scammer may spout off form numbers and fancy tax terms that are meant to convince you that he or she is actually from the IRS. The terms may not even mean anything; they’re just things to make you let down your guard.
Another common tactic is fear. This is most common when a scammer is impersonating a law enforcement official or debt collector. When pretending to be a debt collector, a scammer may insist that if you don’t pay your debts over the phone right now, you’ll go to jail. The logical fear response, combined with the insistence that you rush to do it right now, manages to take in a surprising amount of people, even people who are usually very knowledgeable about staying safe.
Lastly, some scammers use the promise of benefits and rewards. Rather than threatening you with repercussions, a fake SSA employee may ask for personal information in order to deposit a bonus into your account. Fake charities may give you the false impression that you’re doing something good for the world, or that you’ll get tax benefits for giving money.
How Can I Stay Safe?
The biggest question on people’s minds when it comes to scams is how to stay safe. The best way to make sure you aren’t scammed is to make sure you’re talking to a legitimate official. You can ask for certain identifying information, or look online to see if what the person is telling you is true.
You can use online search services like PeopleFinders to attempt to see whether the number actually belongs to an official source. The reverse phone lookup may tell you in seconds to whom a number is registered. If you don’t see any official information, you might be talking to a scammer. There are many other ways to use PeopleFinders to try and hunt down scams; check the PeopleFinders blog to research that information.
Scammers are part of life. They’ve always been around. But these days, it’s easier than ever to get in touch with people, which has led to scams becoming increasingly more common. However, you don’t have to be overly worried. Take a deep breath, and use tools like PeopleFinders to try and make sure you’re talking to a genuine official, and not a scammer who merely wants your information for nefarious purposes.
Image attribution: Elnur – stock.adobe.comTags: Reverse Phone Lookup, Scammer
Categorized in: Scams