Threat-based impersonation scams are common and can be traumatic for the victim.
Typically, scammers pretend to be from a government agency or well-known company who threaten you into handing over your money or personal information. This type of scam is commonly received over the phone, though it can also come via email or text message.
How the scam works
Scammers will impersonate government officials and claim that you have an outstanding tax debt or that you failed to appear to court on a summons and you need to pay the debt or other fees to fix the problem.
They will threaten you with a fine, disconnection, legal costs, or sometimes suggest you will be arrested or deported.
Scammers will often pretend to be from a well-known, trusted business or organisation, including Microsoft, Apple, the IRS, banking institutions, the court house and law enforcement agencies. They may call and ask for remote access to your computer to fix a problem. Or they may email you fake invoices or fines, and threaten to cancel your service or charge excessive penalty fees if you don’t pay them immediately.
Think before you click!
If the scammer sends an email, it is likely to include an attachment or a link where you can download proof of the ‘bill’, ‘fine’ or ‘missed delivery details’, but opening the attachment or downloading the file can infect your computer with malware.
Don’t be a victim! Protect yourself!
- When dealing with uninvited or unexpected contact from a government agency or trusted business—whether over the phone, by email, in person or through social media—always consider the possibility that it may be a scam.
- If you’re unsure whether a call or email is real, verify the identity of the contact through an independent source, such as online search. Don’t use the contact details provided by the caller or in the message they sent to you.
- Don’t be pressured by a threatening caller. Hang up, then check whether their story is real.
- If you’re still unsure, speak to a trusted friend or family member about what has happened.
- Never send money or give your bank account details, credit card details, or other personal information to anyone you don’t know or trust..
- A government agency or trusted business will never ask you to pay by unusual methods, such as a gift or store card, iTunes card, wire transfer or bitcoin.
- Don’t open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or emails and don’t click on links or open attachments—just delete them.
- Never give anyone remote access to your computer! Unsolicited contact is always a RED FLAG!!! —whether through a phone call, an email, or pop up window —and even if they claim to be from a well-known company that you know and trust. Always be specious. If some one knocked on your door and ask you to show them to your purse or wallet… would you just let them in?
Tips: You have been scammed, now what?
- If you’ve lost money or given personal information to a scammer, there are steps you can take straight away to limit the damage and protect yourself from further loss:
- If you’ve sent money or shared your banking or credit card details, contact your financial institution immediately. They may be able to stop or reverse a transaction, or close your account.
- Speak to your managed IT provider immediately to reduce the catastrophic damage. Also to insure future attacks, check with your technology expert to make sure you have the best products to protect you going forward.
- As scammers are often based overseas, it is extremely difficult to track them down or take action against them. So take the time to warn your friends and family about these scams.