Imposter Scams

Some 348,000 people reported impostors, 19 percent suffered a financial loss.

Impostor scams were again the top fraud in 2017, according to the Federal Trade Commission, which has detailed the 2.7 million complaints the agency received from consumers last year.

Although the total number of complaints decreased from nearly 3 million in 2016, consumers reported losing $905 million, an increase of $63 million from 2016.

In terms of age, younger people were fleeced more often but, when successfully scammed, older people lost more money.

Among those ages 20 to 29, 40 percent reported losing money to fraud; the rate for those 70 and above was 18 percent. But when the thieves were successful, the typical amount of loss depended greatly on one’s age. The older you were, the more you lost.

For those 20-29, the median loss was $400. The comparable figures were $621 for those 70 to 79 and $1,092 for those 80 and above.

Some 348,000 people reported about impostors, with 19 percent saying they suffered a financial loss. After impostors, the top categories in order of number of reports were phone and mobile services (150,000); prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries (143,000); shop-at-home and catalog sales (126,000); internet services (45,000); foreign money offers and counterfeit checks (32,000); travel, vacation and time-shares (22,000); business and job opportunities (19,000); advance payments for credit (18,000); and health care (10,000).

The top states per capita for fraud reports were Florida, Georgia and Nevada.

You can find out the FTC’s fraud report in detail at its website.

Can you spot an impostor?

85% of adults are confident they can, according to a recent AARP survey. But the majority of the survey participants then flunked an “Impostor IQ” quiz that measures the ability to spot a liar.

Welcome to what experts call the illusion of invulnerability — the belief that frauds happen to others but not you. Overconfidence in your ability to spot bad guys is a dangerous thing. Impostor fraud is among the fastest-growing scam types precisely because so many of us think we are immune to it.

To help, here is a small sampling of actual impostor scams now playing out across America. The take- away? Never accept a pitch or give any information to a stranger — on the phone, in person or over the internet — without first independently verifying that it’s legitimate.

The jury duty manager: “Hi, I’m calling from the courthouse, and you missed jury duty. Pay $400 or go to prison.” puppy breeder: “As a dog lover, you should know we just got a beautiful litter of purebred golden retriever puppies. Just $200 each!” utility company: “We will be shutting off your electricity in 24 hours if you don’t pay the past-due amount on your bill immediately.”

 Learn more about: Utility imposter scams government clerk: “You have unclaimed property with our state. Simply pay this fee, and we will release it to you.” ticket seller: “As an affiliate of a major ticket vendor, we can get you seats for your dream concert for a discount, if you act quickly.” bank verifier: “There’s a data problem with your checking account. Please verify this information so we can confirm things and fix the error.” big-winner announcer: “I’m from the Canadian lottery, and you have won $1 million! Pay the import tax and fee, and we’ll send you your winnings.”

 Learn more about: Sweepstakes imposter scams doctor representative: “Research shows conclusively that these new capsules will stop your disease in its tracks.”

The police or fire department: “We’re raising money for officers (or firefighters) injured in the line of duty. How much will you be donating today?”

 Learn more about: Police imposter scams Internal Revenue Service: “You owe taxes and are at grave risk of large fines or jail time if you do not settle this situation immediately.” long-distance lover: “In these weeks of chatting, I’ve fallen so in love with you. Send money for a plane ticket, and oh, the magic that will happen!”

 Learn more about: Online dating scams military rep: “I’m from the Veterans Administration, and you are entitled, as an ex-soldier, to benefits from this program. I just need to know …”

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