6 tips to outsmart imposter scams

Canada By April Payne June 5, 2024

Did you ever get an urgent call from a “bank” asking you to send a money transfer to settle your overdue bills?

Beware, it could be an imposter scam.

An imposter scam is when a person poses as a friend, family member, or a credible figure such as a utility company employee, IRS agent, or bank representative, and tricks you into sending money. Imposter scams can take many forms, so it is important to immediately verify the identity of any person who contacts you and asks you to do something.

In one version of the scam the imposter poses as a representative from a credible brand who contacts you through phone, email, text message or social media. The fraudster may try to convince you to work for the brand (sometimes as a “mystery shopper”, “shipping clerk”, or in payroll), or may try to convince you to give them access to sensitive information such as your credit card number or other details.

In some cases, the imposter may claim to be an IRS agent contacting you about overdue taxes, or a representative from a utility company saying you have an overdue payment. In other situations, the scammer poses as a customer care representative from a bank or other company contacting you about “security issues” or your account balance.

Scammers also impersonate family members or friends claiming to have been involved in an emergency where your help is urgently needed. To make things more confusing, they often already have access to some of your personal information, like where you bank or the names of family members – which they use to make the scam seem more credible.

Here are the three most common imposter scam signs to look out for:

  • Urgency: A stranger (or even a person claiming to be a friend or family member) might pressure you to take an action immediately without allowing time for you to verify the credibility of the situation.
  • Threats: You might get threats of service disruption, account suspension or closure, legal action, arrest or other serious consequences if you don’t take immediate action.
  • Secrecy: Scammers often urge you to not tell anyone else about what is happening. Though they may give what sound like good reasons, it’s really because they don’t want you to verify the situation.

To beat these scammers at their own game, remember these tips:

  1. Don’t rush: Take deep breaths and avoid taking any quick actions – no matter what the person tells you.
  2. Verify: If the person claims to be a friend or family member, immediately confirm the situation with other family members first. If the person claims to be a representative from an organization (like the government, your bank, or a utility company), immediately hang up and verify the situation using a contact method on the organization’s official website.
  3. Don’t click on unknown links: Whether sent via text, email, social media or any other channels, DO NOT click on unknown links or download attachments that are sent to you from unverified sources.
  4. Check website URLs: Scammers often send emails from URLs that look like big-name companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, or FedEx but close inspection will reveal the URL is slightly different from the real one.
  5. Notice mistakes: Look closely, even the email subject line can hold a clue! There might be mistakes such as misspellings, poor grammar or unusual logos and formatting.
  6. Report it: If you suspect a scam, tell your local authorities. Sharing your scam story helps both investigators trying to close the case on fraudsters and others avoid getting scammed.

Together, we can be smarter and safer.

Remember, don’t be afraid to say no and hang up so you can take the time needed to verify the situation. If something feels off, it probably is!