Tiffany Faust | Posted on Apr 02, 2021
With people spending more time at home due to the ongoing pandemic, many are more available to respond to phone calls, texts, or online communications with scammers. Unsurprisingly, reports of fraud and scams increased nationally and at the local level in 2020. While some reported being victims of attempted unemployment compensation fraud locally, imposter scams seemed to be more prevalent. Typically, the most popular imposter scams are those related to trusted businesses, followed by impersonation of a romantic interest. Unfortunately, those falling for romance impersonation usually experience the greatest financial losses.
In the case of business impersonation, persons report receiving phone calls, texts, or email messages impersonating companies---such as online shopping sites, retailers, credit card providers, or banks---with claims that potentially unauthorized transactions have been identified on their accounts. In most cases, the impersonator is not satisfied with a simple response when asking the victim if certain activity has been conducted. Instead, the impersonator insists on needing additional information to verify the customer’s identity and/or to process a refund for the fraudulent transactions.
In some instances, the impersonators convince persons to allow them remote access to their personal computers or cell phones to login to their apps to access their shopping or other accounts. In other instances, the scammers convince persons to share their online banking user ID and password reset codes, which then allows them access to online banking and bank accounts.
Regardless of who the caller or sender of a text or email claims to be, a legitimate business will not ask you for remote access to your computer or cell phone. Nor will they ask for access to your account to issue you a refund. Remember, caller ID can be spoofed so when the caller isn’t satisfied with a simple no response, it’s best to end the conversation. When in doubt, contact your bank or credit card provider using a number on your statement or on the back of your card for assistance.
Romantic Interest Impersonation
A second scam prevalent in 2020 was romantic interest impersonation. Many people use online dating sites and social media seeking companionship. Unfortunately, scammers use these sites too and, with the pandemic, they no longer have to claim to be deployed military or oil rig workers to have a valid excuse for why they can’t meet in person.
How can you be proactive and protect yourself? Take it slowly. Look for inconsistent answers to questions. If the conversation turns to money, be aware of the possibility that the other person is trying to take advantage of you based upon your emotions. The request for money may be disguised as a need to pay for surgery or relocation expenses. You should also be on the lookout for requests for gift cards or to receive deposits and forward some of the funds to others.
Most importantly, don’t be embarrassed to talk with others about your concerns if you suspect you are a victim of business or romantic interest impersonation. Many individuals have similar experiences. Not to mention, sharing yours may help someone else avoid becoming a victim. To learn more about the latest scams, visit the Federal Trade Commission website at consumer.ftc.gov to protect yourself and your money.