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Losses linked to impersonation scams top $1 billion yearly, FTC says

A classic type of fraud — when a crook impersonates a business or a government agency — appears to be bigger than ever, according to federal statistics, and it’s now most likely to begin via text message or email instead of a phone call.

Impersonation scams reported to the Federal Trade Commission cost victims about $1.1 billion in 2023, the agency said Monday, “more than three times what consumers reported in 2020.”

Of those reported cases in 2023, about 40 percent started online in one way or another, while a more traditional method — the scam phone call — accounted for 32 percent. That’s down from 67 percent since 2020, the FTC said.

Overall in 2023, the agency took in “330,000 reports of business impersonation scams and nearly 160,000 reports of government impersonation scams.” Added together, those cases amount to half of the FTC’s overall fraud-response workload for 2023. (Other categories include things like shopping and romance scams and bogus investments.)

“And reports show an increasingly blurred line between business and government impersonation scams: many scammers impersonate more than one organization in a single scam – for example, a fake Amazon employee might transfer you to a fake bank or even a fake FBI or FTC employee for fake help,” the agency said.

The top tactics, the FTC said, include fake account-security alerts, phony subscription renewals, sham prizes or giveaways, packages and deliveries that don’t exist, and scammers pretending to be law enforcement.

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Joe Warminsky

Joe Warminsky

is the news editor for Recorded Future News. He has more than 25 years experience as an editor and writer in the Washington, D.C., area. Most recently he helped lead CyberScoop for more than five years. Prior to that, he was a digital editor at WAMU 88.5, the NPR affiliate in Washington, and he spent more than a decade editing coverage of Congress for CQ Roll Call.