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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


Fake tax threat and warrant issued through the Oakland courthouse. Scammer wants returned call at 703-662-8334.

Just got this same call. All I could make out was "arrest warrant" and a need to call urgently. Weird accent as well. I googled the number and found similar scam comments on other sites as well 703-662-8334.

Just received the same scam call.

Got the same message. 703-662-8334 was the URGENT callback number. When I called the number back to yell at them for being scammers, the message indicated the mailbox was ful. As consumers, what recourse do we have to go after these groups that attempt to prey on us? The National Do-Not-Call Registry apperars to be just as much a scam as it does not stop the calling!

The original purpose of the National Do Not Call Registry was to allow consumers to opt-out of telemarketing calls from legitimate businesses. While most companies honor the Do Not Call list, scammers don't care about the law, and they are using the internet to make millions of illegal calls from all over the world. The FTC is continuing aggressive law enforcement and leading several initiatives to develop a technology solution to the problem. To learn more, read our recent blog post, Your top 5 questions about unwanted calls and the National Do Not Call Registry

Thank goodness my son is internet security for a huge company & let me know I was being scammed. I thought I had called a very reputable company tech & the next thing I know I was being told I had koobface & every part of my computer was at risk including getting in to my banking. When I said I needed to talk to my son about it he said oh you cant do that by then they will be in you bank. He wanted a fee right then to stop it. I finally hung up on him.

a lot misleading

I rarely get scam emails at my personal email, but my university work email regularly gets hits. Granted, hundreds are stopped by IT and the rest go to the Junk/Spam folder, but it is kind of funny. They often use names of students, faculty, or vendors I have dealt with; they must be getting my email from those peoples' ends.

I got caught on #4 Microsoft scam - They tried once before and said they were sending updates. I said I didn"t believe them. But it was true because I did receive Microsoft updates. Maybe 6 months or more I received another phone call saying they were from Microsoft and my computer was infected and they would fix it. They did have foreign accents . After they played with it I ended up in Safe Mode. Then they said they woud fix it for $180.00. I said I did not have that much money, which was the truth. Besides they messed it up, why should I trust them to fix it. Now I can"t make copies and my Norton is turned off. I have tried to turn these back on but can't. I also can't find a way to get out of Safe Mode. I haven't been able to find someone I can afford and trust to fix it. So I have a crippled computer. I can still look things up and some other things, but I can't do things I need to do.

Since I put my number on the do-not-call list, I've been getting an increased number of robots that call me and then don't connect me to a recording or operator.

I've also been getting a lot of grating calls from an old guy saying "Hello, seniors!" and promising a free fallen-and-can't-get-up system and thousands of dollars in coupons, and claiming that the Feds or my insurance cover it. But for a while, if you pressed "1" to be connected to an operator, their robot was saying "1 is not a valid extension, try dialing again." At least if you're going to call and scam me, try to actually connect to me, ok?

Internet/phone for Dummies Don't trust, verify. DON'T GIVE OUT PERSONAL INFORMATION OVER A PHONE YOU DIDN'T PLACE. Never accept a call or message from someone that you don't know. If it's someone like a head hunter, CALL THEM BACK using information you looked up. Never reply to a message asking for oersonal information using the email reply function, or contact information left in a message. Enter the address ir phone numbet ro your address book. Even if you do believe the person contacting you is someone you know, verify that using shared experience/knowledge that a stranger wouldn't know. then call them back.

Got a call on my cell phone from a very foreign sounding guy saying that I had been randomly selected by the US government to receive a $9000 grant. He went on to say that in order for me to receive the funds immediately, all I had to do was to give my bank acct. or credit card info. When I asked why they couldn't just send a check, the guy hung up on me. the number he called from is (543) 210-9876 but when I called it back, recording said it was not a working number. I did report it. Please pass it on to anyone you know who may fall for something like this.

My 87 year old mother took a call from the sheriff's office holding her Grandson. It was horrible, she has a bad heart, and I had to watch her go through that "Trauma" for weeks. It's difficult for seniors to understand the scum that do this sort of thing! I'm thinking Karma...

FTC, You are welcome to put a bug on my phone or forward my calls to your office whatever it takes to catch these guys. We got hooked one time by these guys and now the Microsoft, Dell, approved trip,IRS so they say calls all the time. We have had 2 today. We have a call blocker but they keep changing the numbers. My husband and I are in our 70 and we don't need this added stress. Please help us with this problem.

Re:junk emails. If the originating address is an address other than the "company" or has a long complicated email adress, then it's most likely a scammer. If the address they want you to click on does NOT start with "https://", it is anther warning flag the email is a scam.
Also, all my real assocites, friends, businesses, etc. have an alternate number. If anyone calls my common #, then my rule is"no message or callback # ", it is summarily erased. The https:// hint is the best one, though.

My roommate was scammed for $70,000.00 (I gave him the money---STUPID) by a woman claiming to be in a Nigerian refugee camp. She said she was hiding from her stepmotherw= who wanted to kill her for the money left her by her father. We sent the money to a bank in Hong Kong. We were later informed she had died. Have written the bank in Hong Kong twice, return receipt requested. Got one card back (from the second letter) months ago but have not had the money returned. Also got scammed by someone claiming to be with the US Federal Grants Dept. About $6,000.00. I have reported both to the FTC in hope of getting some of the money back.

You can also contact your state Attorney General’s office. If you used a wire transfer to send the money, contact the wire transfer company and report what happened.

Does the FTC always say to report (varies) to the FTC or your state attorney general? Even if as in CA the A/G never intakes a complaints If you uspo mail it in you get back one of a dozen form letters rejecting your complaint beforehand as ca ag doesn't do that or ca ag reviewed you complaint and cannot act or it:you had no issue.
Always false.100% false.Statutes prove otherwise. So the ftc referred me to a ca gov at that can accept complaints on state law basis.Then in contempt of the law & likewise the ftc directive the ca at will lie forever & never file it.The FTC sent me to ca at who rejects to carry out the duties of their in office to do.The FTC has a procedure for misconduct by ca ag scams - many and worse.Where in the FTC intakes fraud by ca agencies?


I have been contacted on the IRS scam, the Malware scam, and the Computer needing help scam. I knew they was a scam. They were all so annoying! They sound pretty convincing and the 2 computer scams called me back arguing with me! Asking me why I was hanging up on them or telling them I knew they were a scam when they were just trying to help me. Beware out there!

I have talked to thousands of dating women and the most common scam is 'You Must Verify your identity with us at the following 'Free' web page'.. costing $10.00 for two days with refreshing charge for $30.00 monthly, from appropriate relevant sites, that ALWAYS crash because the site use.. services FAIL because the deep data correction done by these sites filter my id into oblivion and return my information at the state level modified to a blank record for my 40+ years as a State Side born citizen of the United States.. Then after my initial failure occurs the site feels free to proliferate with a message stream of legal fraudulent charges to a nonexistent American citizen.. I usually attempt to cancel the unwanted site charges.. but they are often refusing so I have to report fraud to my credit card directly..

I have had these calls, especially with my home # showing up in the caller ID. I normally don't answer any # I don't know. They don't leave msgs.I did try to contact AT&T but reached a scam site. It looked legal but wasn't. Now I can't copy or use some of my programs. I was hacked in Houston TX while taking cancer treatment and lost lots of programs. The WiFi I used was safe, so the park told me. Now I have almost nothing..I am 82 yo. Surely there is a safe firewall out there somewhere. What can I do?

RE: #616-555-0115 It was around 2:40 yesterday afternoon when I received a phone call from a woman named "Lisa" who called from "Civil Proceedings Division" with a threatening tone of voice. Somehow, I answered that phone call hoping that I will have a job interview real soon. She told me threatening sound of voice that "my husband must be available tomorrow afternoon so he can get his papers". I quizzed and asked her about what company and many other things related to those "papers", and she asked me to call this toll-free number at 1-888-555-0115. However, my husband checked on that toll free number only to find out that it was defunct.

how do I get my refund?

Read about recent FTC cases resulting in refunds on this page.

In MN they are using phone numbers 18883162122, 7632433505, 13304335970 and 12162363612. They call every single day from Microsoft Windows. Asking for my husband. I found out that Centurylink has instructions for tracing the phone calls, and after 3 traces, they get the law enforcement department involved. Good luck.

I received this text message and I strongly believe it is a scam:
hello this is pastor Adam,i got your number from ferris university, I have a personal assistant part-time Job offer for you $300 weekly get back to me if you are interested,Hours are flexible.. adamsgate24@

Just got the exact same message, except at the University of Utah

I got the same thing except it didn't say a university. I got it Nov 21st over email and he also use the name Howard Lorenzo. I don't know if it's a scam or not.

If you get a job offer from someone you don't know, it's probably a scam. This FTC article explains some job recruitment scams.

A scammer may contact you because he wants to get your personal information in a "job application" (and use it for identity theft), or get your banking information so he can "send your paycheck (but really, he'll take your money). Or, he might ask you to accept packages and re-ship them to him overseas. Those packages might contain stolen property, or merchandise bought with stolen credit cards.

I got a text from someone called Pastor Adam who said he found my information of and said that he has a personal assistant part-time job offer for me. He asked me to send him my resume at adamsgate24@

I just got an email too asking for a part time job. Did you ever get to the bottom of that?

My scammer is pretending to be from the Department of The Treasury. Message said I would be arrested for tax evasion and fraud. Blah, Blah Blah. After the third message in many months, I phoned them to see what their game was. They were so dumb that I couldn't wait out what the scam was I hung up.


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