by Tony Leahy, Consumer Education and Training Services (CENTS) Executive Director
CENTS is a nonprofit organization that empowers people to improve their financial health by developing educational and legal resources to help prevent or overcome financial challenges. Their Senior Money project is a free consumer education program for seniors.
In an imposter scam, someone pretends to be someone else to get your personal and/or financial information. According to the Federal Trade Commission, this was the number one reported scam category in 2019 and remains at the top of the list today.
ANYBODY CAN PRETEND TO BE ANYBODY
A scammer can pretend to be from a government agency, like the IRS, a business like Bank of America, or a family member or friend. Scammers even pretend to be a love interest on social media and dating websites.
TELL-TALE SIGNS OF A SCAM:
1. The government agency or business asks for sensitive information over the phone, text, or email.
2. They contact you to get sensitive information they should already have.
3. They ask you to wire money or send it via an untraceable manner, such as Money Pak/Green Dot cards.
4. Someone you don’t know well asks you for money.
STEPS TO FOLLOW TO AVOID IMPOSTER SCAMS
1. Don’t be rushed, pressured, or make a decision in a panic. Scammers try to scare you, so you act without thinking things through.
2. Verify you are communicating with who you think you are. Don’t just respond to the number in the email, voicemail, or text. Look up the correct number in the phone book, on your bill, or online. I am sad to report scammers are now setting up imposter websites, so you want to make sure you contact a legitimate business or government agency if you look it up online.
3. Be very judicious when you provide personal and/or financial information. Do not provide this over text or email.
4. Do not wire money or send it in an untraceable manner.
5. Don’t loan money to people you don’t know well. If you decide to lend someone money, even someone you know, make a contract and make sure you have that person’s name, address, and contact information.