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When a Con Man Calls

Frauds using false identities are on the rise. Here’s how to foil the fakers

When a con man calls

Jason Schneider

Can you spot an impostor? Eighty-five percent of adults are confident they can, according to a recent AARP survey. But the majority of the survey participants then flunked an “Impostor IQ” quiz that measures the ability to spot a liar (take the quiz at aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork).



Welcome to what experts call the illusion of invulnerability — the belief that frauds happen to others but not you. Overconfidence in your ability to spot bad guys is a dangerous thing. Impostor fraud is among the fastest-growing scam types precisely because so many of us think we are immune to it.

To help, here is a small sampling of actual impostor scams now playing out across America. The takeaway? Never accept a pitch or give any information to a stranger — on the phone, in person or over the internet — without first independently verifying that it’s legitimate.

The jury duty manager: 
“Hi, I’m calling from the courthouse, and you missed jury duty. Pay $400 or go to prison.”


The puppy breeder:
 “As a dog lover, you should know we just got a beautiful litter of purebred golden retriever puppies. Just $200 each!”


The utility company:
 “We will be shutting off your electricity in 24 hours if you don’t pay the past-due amount on your bill immediately.”

 

Learn more about: Utility imposter scams


The government clerk: 
“You have unclaimed property with our state. Simply pay this fee, and we will release it to you.”


The ticket seller: “As an affiliate of a major ticket vendor, we can get you seats for your dream concert for a discount, if you act quickly.”


The bank verifier: “There’s a data problem with your checking account. Please verify this information so we can confirm things and fix the error.”


The big-winner announcer:
 “I’m from the Canadian lottery, and you have won $1 million! Pay the import tax and fee, and we’ll send you your winnings.”

 

Learn more about: Sweepstakes imposter scams


The doctor representative: “Research shows conclusively that these new capsules will stop your disease in its tracks.”


The police or 
fire department: “We’re raising money for officers (or firefighters) injured in the line of duty. How much will you be donating today?”

 

Learn more about: Police imposter scams


The Internal Revenue Service: “You owe taxes and are at grave risk of large fines or jail time if you do not settle this situation immediately.”

 

Learn more about: IRS imposter scams


The long-
distance lover:
 “In these weeks of chatting, I’ve fallen so in love with you. Send money for a plane ticket, and oh, the magic that will happen!”

 

Learn more about: Online dating scams


The military rep: “I’m from the Veterans Administration, and you are entitled, as an ex-soldier, to benefits from this program. I just need to know ...”

 

Learn more about: Veterans scams

Learn more about: Military-themed imposter scams

 

   

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