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Anatomy of an imposter scam banner

Scammers say and do things that can tell us they’re lying — and they’re not who they pretend to be. Of course, to hear or see those clues, we have to get past the panic scammers make us feel, thanks to the so-called emergencies they try to create. And since scammers are convincing, that can be hard to do. But recent scams are costing people their life savings, so here are some sure ways to spot the scammer.

Things only scammers will say:

  • “Act now!” That’s a scam. Scammers use pressure, so you don’t have time to think. But pressuring you to act now is always a sign of a scam. It’s also a reason to stop.
  • “Only say what I tell you to say.” That’s a scam. The minute someone tells you to lie to anyone — including bank tellers or investment brokers — stop. It’s a scam.
  • “Don’t trust anyone. They’re in on it.” That’s a scam. Scammers want to cut you off from anyone who might slow you down.
  • “Do [this] or you’ll be arrested.” That’s a scam. Any threat like this is a lie. Nobody needs money or information to keep you out of jail, keep you from being deported, or avoid bigger fines. They’re all scams.
  • “Don’t hang up.That’s a scam. If someone wants to keep you on the phone while you go withdraw or transfer money, buy gift cards, or anything else they’re asking you to do: that’s a scammer. DO hang up.

And here’s a list of things that only scammers will tell you to do:

  • Move your money to protect it” is a scam. Nobody legit will tell you to transfer or withdraw money from your bank or investment accounts. But scammers will.
  • “Withdraw money and buy gold bars” is a scam. Always. Every time.
  • “Withdraw cash and give it to [anyone]” is a scam. Doesn’t matter who they say: it’s a scam. Don’t give it to a courier, don’t deliver it anywhere, don’t send it. It’s a scam.
  • “Go to a Bitcoin ATM” is a scam. Nobody legit will ever insist you get cryptocurrency of any kind. And there’s no legit reason for someone to send you to a Bitcoin ATM. It’s a scam.
  • “Buy gift cards” is a scam. There’s never a reason to pay for anything with a gift card. And once you share the PIN numbers on the back, your money’s as good as gone.

If you see or hear any version of any of these phrases, you’ve just spotted a scammer. Instead of doing what they say, stop. Hang up. Delete the email. Stop texting. Block their number — anything to get away from them. And then, tell someone you trust and report the scam to the FTC: ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

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If someone says, “Don’t trust anyone. They’re in on it” it’s a scam.

Our “Anatomy of an Imposter Scam” blog series breaks down how to recognize, avoid, and report business and government imposter scams. Read more.

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
  • We won’t post comments that include vulgar messages, personal attacks by name, or offensive terms that target specific people or groups.
  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

R Mayer
March 11, 2024

I just got an email from a survey company that’s going to send me a check to deposit for my 1st assignment so I can buy 3 gift cards and to send pics of front and back with info showing and to keep cards for future assignments and there are so many red flags!! What should I do?

Marguerite Oliver
April 02, 2024

In reply to by R Mayer

I got a call yesterday from some unidentified person almost demanding to know my phone number. I'm sure he already knew it. I hung up.

Tooooo Smart
April 04, 2024

In reply to by R Mayer

So I get a email scammers sent talking almost $500 was about to be took out of my Pay Pal. ( I DONT HAVE PAY PAL) So I called the number and he wanted the number on the fake bill. Give that to him then he wanted to know my name and I said nope your not getting my name. He hung the phone up!.. His address is on the bill.. WHAT A LOSER. his email I got with his name all but one letter different. That stuff I was post to bought was to protect my computer from getting hacked. So that is why he bough the stuff his self, sent me a fake bill, He did that and now his computer is protected and he knows he can do everyone that way.

Mary
March 13, 2024

Thank you very much.

Jodi
March 13, 2024

I got a call saying "This is your oldest grandson, I know it doesn't sound like me, I've been in a car wreck." I replied "If you are my oldest grandson, what's your name?" He hung up.

David
March 22, 2024

In reply to by Jodi

Same thing happened to me. I knew it was a scam the second I said "hello." I have no grandsons. I played with this despicable scammer for about 3 minutes. Then I asked him what his mother's name was. He used several expletives and hung up. What a loser!

Kelly
March 21, 2024

In reply to by Jodi

They want you to say, “oh John is that you?” Yes yes I’m John! Then everyone knows and calls. My 80+ year old father got multiple versions of that every week.

Luiz Toledo
March 13, 2024

Thanks for watching our backs!

Real Ralph
March 20, 2024

Good, but you left one out:

"We are from the government and we are here to help you."

Run, run, run away :-)

Sharon M OConnor
March 13, 2024

Thank you!

Michele Eaton
March 13, 2024

The articles and/or training materials posted on the FTC website are the best in class. I am so grateful to have access to this content and resources.
Curious if there are any articles written from a retailers perspective on how to teach their employees to protect their customers from these scams.
This would be very helpful.
Thank you,
Michele

FTC Staff
March 13, 2024

In reply to by Michele Eaton

We have many resources to help small business owners, available at www.ftc.gov/SmallBusiness. There are online articles about scams that target your business, how to protect customers' personal information, what to do in case of a data breach, and more. Read the articles online, download and print copies for employees, or order free print copies at www.ftc.gov/bulkorder.
When you're on the Small Business site, subscribe to the Business Blog so you'll get regular email updates about business topics.

Samantha
March 13, 2024

My parents were sold a plot in a national cemetery by someone representing a mortuary. After they passed, we discovered this and learned that burial in a national cemetery is free to all military veterans. They do not sell plots. My parents' intended site had no record of the sale. Please be aware of sales tactics targeting veterans for services they're already entitled.

rick reeves
March 13, 2024

Great article!

patsy a pierce
March 13, 2024

I get emails all the time that i have purchased on amazon ebay etc and my card will be charged in 8 hours

Mary
March 13, 2024

They also say @dont turn off computer”

Don DV
March 13, 2024

Thank you for all that you do!

Kie Dills
March 13, 2024

Thank you for letting us know about SCAMMERS. I have seen these messages before. Thank you.

Janette McMillen
March 13, 2024

What about companies that tells you they can help you with your debit??

Lynn
March 15, 2024

I had an error come up on my computer saying I had been hacked, call Microsoft with the phone number. I called a d was told that my IP address was stolen. So was my Id info. She gave me a case number. Then she said that my id was used to look at child porn and open accounts with lots of money. She said she was transferring me to FTC. The guy said that I was not to speak to any on and send me a copy of ID and had me key online PN1156 to prove it was him. I was told not to tell anyone or I would be arrested. He said the scammers are smart and if they get wind we are talking I would be in danger. He said he is talking on a secure telephone line number 202 600 8402 I was to call this number to talk to him. He then told me to get all the money in my investments and have them send it to me in a bank check. I was suppose to deposit it in my checking. There would be two guys showing up to give me papers on what I am suppose to do. He always asked if I was alone. He told me Security would be locking my SS number and send me a new SS number. Some how he got a copy of my license. What can I do I know this must be a scammer. Help

FTC Staff
March 15, 2024

In reply to by Lynn

The FTC will never tell you to transfer your money, or make threats, or demand money from you.

Never move your money to "protect" it. That's a scam. Your money is fine where it is, no matter what they say or how urgently they say it. Moving it means you’ll lose it, not protect it. Someone who says you have to move your money to protect it is a scammer.

If you’re worried, call your real bank, broker, or investment advisor. Use the number you find on your statement Never use any numbers the caller gives you, which will take you to the scammer.

If you get a call like this, tell your bank or fund right away. Especially if you moved money or shared a verification code. Then tell the FTC at www.ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

If you have more questions, please write again.

marie Ervin
April 02, 2024

In reply to by FTC Staff

Is this company legal Nielsen they told me not to No one about them they wanted to know what l watch daily on tv. They also pay you money.

Joan
April 10, 2024

In reply to by Lynn

The same think happened to me today! The person that said they were from the FTC told me I was compromised on my compute and phone and that my SS number had been used to open several credit cards and. On line purchases had been made, porno sides had been accessed. Money laundrying from Mexico to China and it went on and on. He said there was a warrant for my arrest for the money laundrying. He told me I need to get a new SS number and that I should take all my money out of my banks, credit union in cash, and that a federal agent would hold that money until I could open new accounts. I came on this site to see if there were any help because the whole think sounded wrong.. The secure number they gave to to call 202-995-1617.

Ed Hanbury
March 15, 2024

When reading emails and I think it is a scam, what is the best way to reach you?

Marilyn
March 15, 2024

Thank you. But the robot thing below, people like me can't see it. Many places use that and many of us can not see.

Pat Knox
March 15, 2024

I got hooked..saw email about a charge for antivirus I never signed up for for $421..saw a phone number to call if I did not want this...called it..{stupid on my part}} they had me download Any desk which a screen sharing sight...because when I was suppose to type in the $$421 to get it back he was using screen share on my bank account and made me think that $$3000 was added to that spot instead..so I panicked and asked how do it get this back to you ..he says do not tell anyone because the $3000 was from a foreign account and if anyone knew I would get fined for accepting it...long story short..he said to get back the $$3000 to them I would have to go to closest place and buy 4 $500 Google gift cards..i said well I will have to get money at an ATM ..he says no use the $money that was deposited in your account and showed me that sure enought there it was in my checking account..and put it on a cc or debit card..so I did that..the whole time he had me on speaker and told me to just tell cashier I was buying them for Xmas gifts..I then was told to also put any desk app on my phone and to let me know when I was in my driveway so I could scratch off numbers and send him pictures of each one..I did that..I never gave it a thought about it being a scam..then he tells me he will call me the next morning to get the other $$1000..well it bothered me all night and I couldn't sleep..so got up really early and decided to drive to my bank and I took my laptop with me so I could show them email...I called to tell them I thought I was scammed and they immediately locked my bank account and cancelled my debit and credit card..he called my phone 5 times while I was driving ..I rejected all of them..so he texted me and asked where I was..I did not answer..needles to say I was out $2000..had to get new cards a new bank account and change all mh passwords and payment info on all my bills as well as let social security to mail me my money instead of depositing it into my old account..little did I know but the $3000 I saw in my checking was what he did..went into my account and transferred money out of my savings account while using Any desk..Filled out police report..but since they are not from U.S. they cannot get them..I am 77 and all I have is social security so that loss really messed me up..payments couldn't get paid etc..And I feel very stupid..and of course my family made me feel foolish..all behind me now and it will never happen to me again!!!!!!!!!!

Gloria L Strand
March 15, 2024

Thanks so much for these updates and informative communiques. As a senior, I fortunately have so far never fallen for these scams; but I know they've come my way, and thanks to you folks, I'm prepared to delete such requests.

Marilyn Person
March 18, 2024

Thank-you for the information.

Salazar
March 19, 2024

I just received one yesterday. I was doing a search and a message box dropped in on my search and said that my computer was having multiple attacks on my Apple ID and various accounts. It looked very legitimate. I called the number and a person with a Middle Eastern accent tried to get me to open WhatsApp so he could end the attack. When I told him I wanted him to talk to my husband, he hung up.

Erin
March 21, 2024

I regularly read and find benefit from your infographics, and this is one of the best I have seen. So concise yet covers such a variety of scammer tactics. Thank you for sharing. The only thing which could make these better is if the infographic were available as a downloadable one-page PDF which we could post in our lobbies for customers to see and read.

FTC Staff
March 21, 2024

In reply to by Erin

To print the text of this post, click Ctrl key and then the letter P on your keyboard. Then you'll get the choice to print the page. The post will print out with the title and date.

To print copies of the infographic that says "If someone says "Don't trust anyone. They're in on it." It's a scam"
Go to the link at the end of this paragraph, then follow the printing instructions. If you don't have a color printer, the infographic will automatically print in black and white. Link to infographic: consumer.ftc.gov/system/files/styles/scaled_lg/private/consumer_ftc_gov/images/Impersonator-SocMed-1200x630-4-Trust.png?itok=yj0wxrA0

Alison
March 25, 2024

In reply to by FTC Staff

When it’s not. Scam ? But multiple people in multiple states get W9 but not bank account holders. Why doesn’t the FTC have a rule to prevent the banks from making false statements . If a bank or any company gives. W9 this should never be used when the IRS hasn’t sent a letter to “you” it says not to use or give information on the same form that bank gave demanding information. What kind of federal agency ignores that a person can’t get a lawyer for a national bank .

Gene
March 25, 2024

Is Cheersway a scam? They send you USDT, ask you to withdraw it, then ask you to deposit a bigger amount of money to their app.. Claim it is refundable in a year. And that it's an employment opportunity

DONALD R GENEREUX
April 02, 2024

IN 2020 I WON A MAJOR WIN 1 MILLION AND A NEW TRUCK BACK EVERYTHING WAS FRE TO WIN AND GET YOUR WINNINGS THEY HAVE NOT PAID ME A PENNY OF IT 4 YEARS NOW THEY ARE TRYING TO BLACKMAIL ME INTO PAYING THEM OR THEY WON'T PAY ME ALSO THIS PAST DECEMBER I WON 10.5 MIL AND A NEW TRUCK WON'T PAY ME UNLESS I BUY A GIFT CARD ??? THAT'S ILLEGAL

B Motogusinile
April 09, 2024

I truly believe CHASE BANK is scamming. I had to call the bank just to change my phone over two months back., Because someone was taking money from my account. The young man said it was done. Give it about 24 hrs. Well! This past week I had to call Chase Bank again to up date my number again. It wasn't updated at all. I had to call the bank again. They placed me on hold so they can look at my account. I was told my phone number do not match anything in my account. I really feel CHASE BANK employees is going into my account and saying it is fraud. They really need to be investigated as well

Patrick J Nied…
April 09, 2024

I have gotten calls from people saying that they were 'Amazon' and ''Walmart' within the last week.
They wereb;t very convincing.`
I just hung up. ... But they are always out there, trying.

If the Federal Government would just set up a Universal $0.10 connection fee for all phone calls, these nuisance calls would stop pretty quickly.

tom haller
April 15, 2024

I have been talking to a man who CALLED ME IN RESPONSE TO A REQUEST TO REMOVE MY OLD MICROWAVE AND INSTALL A NEW ONE FOR A GOOD PRICE..He called yesterday and said a person would be at my house Saturday.He was very hard to get him on the phone and for him to call back.So far no show and no answer on phone calls.I think I have been SCAMMED.Should I report this to the police.?

Barbara Jurek
April 17, 2024

Started out by a comment I made under a post for grandparents loving their grandchildren. A so called gentleman posted a reply under my comment that he would love to chat with me and become my "friend". I answered and we started to message each other on Facebook everyday about job on an Oil Rig in the Golf Coast. Ofcourse he got my attention being a lonely widow and an easy target for a Scammer. After two weeks of messageing I asked for Face time with him and ofcourse when we tried I could not see his face and was told by him it wasn't working. It ended when he asked me for a gift card. The End...

Celia mae Toole
April 24, 2024

Scam scam scam

Celia mae Toole
April 24, 2024

Scammers