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Imposter scams are top fraud of 2023, FTC says. How to protect yourself

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Consumers lost a record $10 billion to fraud in 2023, and imposter scams were the most prevalent swindle, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Nearly 854,000 people filed complaints to the FTC about imposter scams in 2023. This represents 33% of the total consumer fraud reports filed to the agency.

Consumers lost $2.7 billion to such scams in 2023, according to FTC data. The average loss was $800.

Imposter scams come in many forms, but share a basic premise: Criminals pretend to be someone you trust to persuade you to send them money, or to get information that can later be leveraged for money, experts said.

People may falsely claim to be a romantic interest, the government, a relative in distress, a well-known business or a technical support expert, the FTC said in a recent report.

Fraudsters, often part of sophisticated organized crime networks, may contact potential victims via channels such as e-mail, phone call, text, mobile apps, social media or traditional snail mail.

The internet has ‘really supercharged’ imposter scams

Government impersonators, for example, might suggest they work for the Social Security Administration, IRS, Medicare or even the FTC. Others may say they’re from a company such as Amazon or Apple and claim there’s something wrong with your account, or from your utility company threatening to turn off service. Others may say they’re a close friend or family member and need money for an emergency.

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Nascent and improving technology, such as artificial intelligence and voice cloning, has made these frauds more convincing, experts said.

“These scams have been around forever, really, but the internet has really supercharged them,” said John Breyault, vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud at the National Consumers League. “The scammers seem to be getting better at what they’re doing.”

'Fraud is at a crisis level,' says expert: Five financial scams to watch out for in 2024

Additionally, imposter scams have a low barrier to entry for criminals, another likely reason they’ve proliferated, said Hardeep Rai, product director at Feedzai, a fraud detection service used by financial institutions.

“You get [hold of] a bunch of phone numbers and call,” Rai said. “It’s an infinitely scalable fraud in that sense.”

Older adults tend to lose more money

Read More: Imposter scams are top fraud of 2023, FTC says. How to protect yourself

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