Is the FTC calling you? Probably not. Here’s how to avoid a phone scam targeting you

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2 Is the FTC calling you Probably not. Heres how to avoid a new phone scam targeting you 1


Just when you thought phone scams couldn’t get any trickier, there’s another one out there that you must watch out for. 

And this one is even more sophisticated because the government agency you’re meant to report these types of scams to – the FTC – is being impersonated.

woman on phone

Woman on the phone (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

One reason this impersonation has been on the rise is the progression of artificial intelligence. 

AI voice-over tools and deep-fake technology make it even easier for impersonators to commit crimes. But you can protect yourself. Here’s what you need to know.

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What is the FTC impersonation scam?

Like a phishing scam, the FTC impersonation scam involves scammers pretending to be Federal Trade Commission employees calling your number and trying to convince you to wire money to them. These scammers have become very clever in how they target their victims.

First, they may spoof an FTC phone number so that when your phone rings, and you see your caller ID, it says FTC and/or a title related to a government agency.

Next, the scammer may impersonate an actual FTC employee. So, when you ask for their name to check whether or not it’s a scam (which you should always do!), your quick internet search will reveal an actual FTC employee. While checking whether or not this is an actual scam, some victims might not think twice after checking this.

Finally, they’ll tell you that you owe money to them. While it’s not clear exactly what they are saying – perhaps they are telling you that you owe an invoice, debt or a fine – some scammers even tell you to send money in other peculiar ways, such as going to Bitcoin ATMs or withdrawing cash to pay them in person.

These scams have been successful, and this year, the median loss per call has risen to $7,000.

SCAMMERS ARE USING FAKE NEWS, MALICIOUS LINKS TO TARGET YOU IN AN EMOTIONAL FACEBOOK PHISHING TRAP

Man on phone

Man on the phone (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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What the FTC and FBI are doing about it

Now, the FTC is catching onto these scams, warning and educating the public, and cracking down on perpetrators.

To start, the FTC said in a press release that it “will never send consumers to a Bitcoin ATM, tell them to go buy gold bars, or demand they withdraw cash and take it to someone in person.” The agency added that it will “never contact consumers to demand money, threaten to arrest or deport them, or promise a prize.”

Secondly, due to public outcry against AI and the increase in the number of complaints to the FBI, the FTC is working with the government to utilize tools to “detect, deter, and to catch these impersonators” while proposing strict legislation that would ban government and impersonation fraud, thereby “enabling the FTC to directly file federal court cases aimed at forcing scammers to return the money they made from government or business impersonation scams.”

How to keep yourself safe

1. Stay updated: The first step in protecting yourself from government impersonation fraud is simply being educated about it. Keep yourself updated about these scams and other scams by reading the news and subscribing to sites like Cyberguy. Again, the FTC reports that it will never call you and ask you to wire money in any way, shape or form, so if you get a call from them or another government agency asking for this, it’s a scam.

But due to the 22% increase in reported losses to online crime compared to 2022 based on the FBI’s 2023 Internet Crime Report, they’re proposing other strategies to keep yourself safe from scams by following the tips we list below:

2. Stay calm: If you think a scammer is calling you, it’s important to stay calm and not let yourself get emotional. It’s very easy to get worked up when you’re in the middle of this situation. If it happens, you can always say you will get back to them and hang up the phone. If they become aggressive and try to exploit you, tell them you will report them and hang up.

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3. Cautionary note: Do not contact unknown telephone numbers provided in pop-ups, texts or emails.

4. Safety reminder: Do not download software at the request of unknown individuals who contact you.

5. Security precaution: Do not allow unknown individuals access to your computer.

6. Don’t click that link: Do not click on unsolicited pop-ups on your computer, links sent via text messages or email links and attachments.

7. Have good antivirus software: As scammers weaponize AI and deep-fake technologies, robust antivirus software becomes your first line of defense. The best way to protect yourself from clicking malicious links that install malware that may access your private information is to have antivirus protection installed on all your devices. This can also alert you of any phishing emails or ransomware scams. Get my picks for the best 2024 antivirus protection winners for your Windows, Mac, Android & iOS devices.

WOMAN talks on phone

Woman on the phone (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

MORE: HOW A FLAW IN IPHONE’S SECURITY COULD LEAVE YOU LOCKED OUT

Kurt’s key takeaways

Scammers will continue finding new ways to prey on their victims, and AI has made it easier for them to do so. One of the major concerns about AI is that it will progress faster than agencies like the FTC and FBI can keep up with. Therefore, it is important to take measures to protect yourself and avoid falling victim.

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Have you ever received a suspicious call or encountered an impersonation attempt? How did you handle it? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact.

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