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The Grate Pretenders

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We’re done with the Golden Globes and the Oscars but an entirely different kind of actor is still lurking around: scammers who pretend to be someone they’re not. Sometimes it seems we’re afloat in a sea of imposters who are trying to cheat you by pretending to be from legitimate organizations. Imposter scams play on your emotions. The scammers work hard to make you believe that you’ve won something or you have an unexpected problem. They say that, for a small fee, they’ll send you lots of money or make your troubles disappear. They might encourage you to pay them with a reloadable card or they may ask for your personal information. Here are the top ten imposter scams you told us about last year.

  1. A taxing situation. Internal Revenue Service imposters are the #1 imposter scam in Consumer Sentinel and they’re on the rise. Fake IRS agents may try to scare you into thinking that you owe back taxes or there’s a problem with your return. The real IRS won’t initiate contact by phone or email – instead they’ll start with a postal letter.
  1. Sur-prized? Did the Prize Patrol ring you up to say the only thing between you and a pile of winnings is a little processing fee? Before you call in the cameras, balloons and poster-sized check, hold the phone! If you need to send money to collect your prize, hang up. They’re just pretending to be from Publishers Clearinghouse.
  1. You need professional help. Maybe the con artist tries to persuade you that your computer is on the fritz. In this twist, scammers try to convince you that your computer has a serious and urgent technical problem and that you desperately need their help. Oh, puh-leeze.
  1. Mal-where? Another version goes like this: “I’m calling from Microsoft Technical Support. I’m looking at your computer and there’s dangerous software popping up.” In reality – and you have my “Word” on this – ­ it’s a scam. Put down the phone or refuse to click the pop-up. The fee they demand is usually very low to avoid raising your suspicions. Sometimes they say they’re from billing and you owe money or they need your account information.
  1. Fake FBI. In an old twist on the Nigerian email scam, a phony G-man contacts you with supposed “certification” of the legitimacy of Prince So-and-So from the United Kingdom of Scamnation or some other official-sounding offer. The Prince supposedly wants you to help him move a, well, princely, sum of money out of his troubled country. Nope, not a chance.
  1. Kidnapped computers. You click on a link in an email that seems like it’s from a legitimate company. The window that pops up says a destructive program has locked you out of your files. The pop-up might tell you to click a link so an “FBI agent” can help you. Or they tell you to get a prepaid card and pay for a password that will unlock your files. More often than not, even if you pay the ransom, they don’t release your files. Regularly back up your files to minimize any damage these thieves could cause.
  1. I’ll grant you that… Imagine the caller posing as a government official – could be from the Treasury Department, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security or a made-up agency name with the word “federal” in it – with the surprising news that you’ve won a government grant for thousands of dollars. They encourage you to seal the deal by forking over hundreds of dollars in “taxes” or “fees.”
  1. Medicare masquerade. The sham government representative claims to work for Medicare or in connection with the Affordable Health Care Act or even a made-up agency that sounds a lot like Health and Human Services. They threaten your medical benefits to get your personal information or fees from you.
  1. Fueling fears. Another variation involves a phony Homeland Security caller who threatens immigrants with deportation notices. They offer, for a charge, to help you certify your immigration status. They hope scare tactics will get you off guard long enough to part with valuable information or money.
  1. Caller ID Don’t. An emerging imposter scam involves misusing caller ID. Sometimes they make it seem that the Caller ID number is your telephone number. Others spoof the caller ID with “Mom” to get you to pick up the call.
Tagged with: identity theft, imposter, tax


Yes we have been contacted by the Computer con artist about trouble with our computer, but we just hang up. They are always foreign sounding. Also we been called about our credit cards accounts being in trouble, serious errors with them. Last was from Spanish speaking person on our Bank accounts being overcharged. All are scams. 3-2-2015.

Am I missing something? Is there a reason Great is spelled Grate?

Hi KaseyW --  We refer to them as “Grate Pretenders” because they’re grating & irritating to deal with.

Hi, may be the # 7 will apply to my case. I have sent you an email last year. It is between the Amalgamated Bank of New York and the IMF and the treasury dept. It is about an escrow account and I have paid for IMF clearance and treasury dept clearance and I have all kinds of certificates from the IMF and the treasury dept. I could send you copies. I don´t know whether they are legal copies. They tell me that I need clearance from them before the funds can be transferred to my account. I will give you some email addresses I have written to and I´d like to know whether they are offial one´s used by Government offices:, Sarah Raskin,, William Murray,
The banks´edmail used is: where either Katherine Chicago or James Mark sign the emails. I know I am not the only one needing a bit of help but I still will ask you for a reply. What else can I do? I have already paid quite a bit of money to obtain ¨clearances¨ from the IMF and the treasury dept. and would surely like to know whether this is official.

A true government email will end with ".gov", like

If you got a call or email from someone who claims to work for a federal agency, you can contact the agency and ask to speak with the person. Use your web browser to look up the agency's webpage, then call the contact number listed on the agency's official site.

You can report problems to your state Attorney General’s office, the Federal Trade Commission.

And remember to never open emails from someone you don't know. Ask people you know to put some kind of identifier in their email address or subject bar so that you know who is emailing you. If they don' are deleted! If its really important most people who know you will have your phone # and will call you. Repeat offenders get reported as junk mail.

please keep me on your list THANK YOU

What would be a great closing to this article is advice as to what to do when you receive one of these scam emails / phone calls.

I would have to agree here, this type of advice would be invaluable to share with Family and Friends.

I can tell you what we do in Britain when we receive scam emails/phone calls. We don't reply to the emails, and we hang up on the phone calls. Simple, what?

Just delete the email, hang up the phone. NEVER EVER click on a link in an email!

Hang up. Delete.

I just received an email today saying they are paying back the money that scammers were taking from people but it costs $300 to get it.

If someone promises to recover the money you lost, but wants you to pay first, that's against the law. Under the Telemarketing Sales Rule, they cannot ask for — or accept — payment until seven business days after they deliver the money or other item they recovered to you.The FTC’s article about Refund and Recovery Scams has more.

Callers trying to scam us keep using numbers that show up on our caller ID, but if we try to call that number we get a no-working number recording. We are on your "do-not-call" list, and sometimes report these nuisance calls. How can we trace the call to get a legitimate phone number to report to you?

Please go ahead and report your experience at Provide as much information as you have. Your complaints help the FTC and other law enforcement agencies bring scam artists to justice.

Thanks for this, we had a few of these alread ythis year. Yes we put down the phone, or delete the email.Oh but why did you spell "Great" as "Grate" in the title?

Please blast this warning to every corner of the internet. Mail it to the seniors. Every government agency that sends mail to an American household could include a version of this warning! Thank you!

Nothing new here.

Perhaps not to you, but very helpful to others, I'm sure!

When I get one of these calls, I engage them enthusiastically for a minute or so, and then ask them to hang on, I have a fedex man at the door. I set the phone down and leave them on the line until they wise up and hang up. That way I make them waste their time and reduce the time they have to call and try to scan someone else.

The numbers of individuals who are snared by these low-lifes is stunning. FTC should make a concerted effort to get 30 seconds in every prime-time news cast to put out the word on these scams. The language style in this piece is perfect -- clear and light.

One time I played the dumb old lady when I was asked for numbers, didn't remember my Social Security Number, etc. After 15 minutes he got so fustrated he hung up. He called a month later and I stopped his presentation and told him that he was a scam and his call had been traced with him hanging up quickly and never called back.

the federal trade commission should allow a consumer to put a permanent lock on your identity @ credit bureaus and only the individual has the key to open up the lock which must be done @ your local police station with finger prints, get where I going with this?

The hard part is realizing you CAN be fooled. All of us can. If you got an email from your company's tech support guy asking you to test a new company website, you would likely take it at face value. If the site requested your login and password, you would do it. But such believable looking emails and websites can often be forged. The person to be most suspicious of is yourself. "We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly/Pogo

Yes, but you missed the biggest scam of all. The Government's fraudulent CO2 claims.

I have been contacted by at least 4 of these scams and on multiple times. luckily, I was aware of them. however the majority of internet users are very susceptible to false emails and spoofing. personal antivirus programs and firewalls are nowhere as good as even small company's which have a dedicated internet expert or more. Then again chase and Anthem Blue Cross, etc. have been hacked. SO please explain to me why banks, credit cards, etc. are threatening fees if I do not put my personal data with them online, especially through my meager personal computer? Then again how many holes does a bucket have to have in it to be useless especially to those without the knowledge or means to plug them? And I have actually had to wipe my computer twice, since I'm definitely not the smartest cookie around. p.s. at least take a second or two before you gladly agree with that.

Good lookin' out!

While staying at a hotel the room phone rang at 1 am. The caller said it was the front desk, and because the computer went down they had to re-establish all guests information , home address' when they asked for credit card info I hung up and went down to the front desk to verify. Found out it was a scam and it was done by someone inside the hotel who had access to thr room phones.

That's a new one for me! It wouldn't even have to be someone who had access to the phones since most places have a direct dial in number so it doesn't pass through a switchboard. No caller ID on incoming calls, either - although that would be easily spoofed too. Great low-brow crime.

We have received a few fake IRS phone calls in which they tell us that a warrant for our arrest will be issued if we don't contact them right away. The good news is they use strange turns of phrase which should tip anyone off (as in "contact us the very minute you receive this call") and in one case, the "agent" wished us a blessed day after threatening us with arrest.

Yes, I too have noticed that they have are speaking broken English, and they don't act very professional most of the time, like you would expect from a true government agent. Another clue on the emails is if they are misspelled. I've received several that say they are from the FBI, but misspell simple words such as illegal (ilegal) or having (haveing) for example! They just go directly to REPORT TO JUNK file without being opened.

I always ask them is they would be kind enough to hold while I see who is at the door, then I don't bother coming back. Time is money for those creeps. I steal their time.

Please look into the 700 number prefix, receiving murder threats..ty

How about an email from your bank that, if you forgot that your bank does not send messages but through its secure message center, you open it! Or from eBay about various problems or awards on your account. Or, about a real Microsoft or RealPlayer tech who gets your approval to remote control of your computer on a technical problem, helps you, and then you leave every program and associated auxiliary programs deep inside your computer? That tech may leave his company and become a rogue tech and access your computer!

if you get any pop up page that tells you that you must pay to have it removed this u can fix yourself,restart computer as soon as the computer restarts(right away) start taping your F8 key and keep tapping it untill you see a screen that gives you the option to run with networking,once u do that when your start up is ready before you do anything run your virus program a good program will find the virus,i have been hit with it around 4 times now in differant ways but its all the same in the end SEND US MONEY!!!!I hope this helps someone

If you play an instrument and one of these people gets on the phone, tell them you want to change careers and ask them for their opinion. Then play a song, sing, ham it up. They get sick of it and it's fun on your end. Email scams looking for contact info end up getting 600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington DC. That is the FTC. I played a scammer once for so long (payment processor scam where they send you checks and you have to wire the money) that he ended up sending a check with information on where to wire the money to the FTC office in Washington. I hope they got annoyed and busted him.

Hang up or delete the email; if your service allows block the number/email as well. If they are representing a real company or Agency try contacting the fraud department (or look it directly up on the web) and give/forward them as much information about the caller/scammer without directly interacting with them.

Kaiser Soze, the truth is there isn't much you can do after you receive a scam e-mail/phone call. The US Government is powerless or unable to take action against most of these actors because they are outside of US jurisdiction, and the FTC doesn't have the people, skills, willpower or funding to chase after them. Just move on, and put your knowledge to good use. Tell others and pass it on.

We encourage you to report scams to the FTC at We can pursue cases even if the scammers hide in another country.  For example, see how the FTC stopped three Montreal-based telemarketing operations that allegedly bilked millions of dollars from small businesses by charging them for unwanted listings in online “yellow pages” directories.

Great article, but please correct headline spelling (not grate) as it detracts from your message.

Hi carol s. --  We refer to them as “Grate Pretenders” because they’re grating & irritating to deal with.

I hear what you're saying, it's supposed to be "cute." It's just not very professional...using a play on words is fine for social media, but as an official blog for a government agency, seems a bit out of place. IMHO

Carol..I was just about to post about the grate vs great and I's not the place to be "cute" Proper spelling and grammer are going down the tube rapidly and I don't want someone thinking GRATE it the way it is spelled

please keep me on the list! thank you

The Grate(?) Pretenders.I guess this article passed the spell checker, but I think this article reads better as: The Great Pretenders

I don't answer my phone if I don't recognize the caller's name and/or number. If it is important, they will leave a message. Otherwise, they just hang up.

Bridget - here in Canada, the Yellow Pages scammers are from the USA. Know a clinic that has received a couple of faxes demanding payment for "advertising". The most recent one referred to an "Outsources Accounting Department" in Bulgaria.

I am VERY glad you are here & giving us a heads up!

There's your article closing.


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