Don't Fall for these Impersonation Scams

April 04, 2024

Fraudsters bait victims with scams known as phishing (emails), smishing (texts) and vishing (phone calls) by expertly impersonating friends or reputable companies to hook unsuspecting consumers. They create the illusion of legitimacy to convince people to hand over sensitive financial data or money.

Here's what you should know to keep your finances safe.

How can I recognize a phishing or smishing scam?

Phishing and smishing scams convince a victim to safely share private information with someone they've never met. The scammer uses that information to make unauthorized financial charges.

Sample scenario:

Someone posing as a department employee sends you an email or text. The message contains a warning of unusual debit or credit card activity. The scammer claims the only way to resolve the situation is by responding to the email or text with credit card details, such as card security codes and personal identification numbers. They then use that information to commit fraud.

How can I recognize a vishing scam?

Like phishing and smishing, scammers use fraudulent phone calls to try and access your private financial data. But with this vishing scam, crooks hope to access your bank account to change the login credentials. Once you're locked out of your account, the scammer transfers the money to another account.

Sample scenario:

Someone calls from a phone number that appears to originate from your financial institution. The phony employee says there is an issue with one of your accounts. But before they can resolve the "problem" they need you to provide the one-time passcode just sent to your mobile device. They may even attempt to reset the security questions by asking you for the answers.

Protect Yourself from Impersonation Scams 1.0

  • Never send account details to anyone via email or SMS text. Legitimate card activity verification typically requires a simple YES or NO response to a text message.
  • Delete emails or SMS texts instructing you to click hyperlinks. Malicious links could download malware to your device.
  • Don't trust unexpected calls about fraudulent activity. Contact the fraud department on the company's website for more information.

Impersonation Scams 2.0

AI Cloning

Scammers feed audio recordings of the person they want to impersonate into voice cloning software that studies things like pitch, tone and speech patterns. Within minutes, the software reproduces a person's voice well enough to fool their closest friends and family members.

How do AI voice cloning scams work?

Scammers cast a line of fake audio that describes a dire emergency to provoke a swift reaction. They may use the audio file to leave a voice message or during a live phone call.

Sample scenario:

(Phone rings)

Scammer: Hi, Uncle Dave. It's Ben. I'm sorry to bother you like this, but I'm in a tight spot. I don't know where else to turn.

Dave: Ben, what's wrong?

Scammer: I need $2,000 for rent. Can you help me?

Dave: Whoa.That's a lot of money.

Scammer: I'll pay you back when I get my tax refund.

Dave: How soon do you need it?

Scammer: Today, or I'll be evicted.

Dave: You're putting me in a tough spot.

Scammer: I wouldn't ask if I didn't really need it.

Dave: Ben, you're right. We are family. OK, I'll loan you the money.

Scammer: Thanks, Uncle Dave. If you could wire me the money, that would be great.

Protect Yourself

If you receive a suspicious call, follow these tips:

  • Refuse to commit to anything right away. Give yourself time to think and gather more information.
  • Verify the caller's identity by asking questions about things only the two of you would know.
  • End the conversation.
  • Contact the person they claim to be by dialing a phone number you know is correct for that person. Don't use the number that called you, as it might reconnect you to the scammer.
  • You can also report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission.