New Rule Helps Feds Target Scammers Posing as Government, Business Reps

New Rule Helps Feds Target Scammers Posing as Government, Business Reps
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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has new legal avenues to combat government and business impersonation scams thanks to an April 1 rule change, allowing the agency to target scammers who racked up more than $1.1 billion in reported fraud in 2023.

 

Millions of those dollars came from “military consumers,” a catch-all title the FTC gives to servicemembers and veterans, as well as their spouses and dependents. That group lost $178 million in imposter scams in 2023, according to FTC data covering government and business imposters as well as other scams involving fake charities, family members, romantic interests, and similar subjects.

 

The new rule will allow the FTC to take scammers to court if they:

  • Use government seals or business logos as part of regular mail or electronic communications.
  • Send messages with lookalike email addresses (including slight misspellings of a company name, for instance) or “spoofs” of dot-gov websites.
  • Imply a relationship with a government or business by using “terms that are known to be affiliated with a government agency or business,” according to an FTC press release.

 

[MORE FINANCIAL RESOURCES: MOAA.org/Finance]

 

Retirees at Risk

Military retirees and other veterans find themselves in multiple high-risk demographics for this type of fraud. With many service-earned benefits requiring interaction with the federal government, they are more likely to fall prey to imposters posing as a government representative. And while the FTC reports younger people are more likely to be scam victims, those in their 70s lose more money per scam incident, on average.

 

These scams are becoming more intricate, according to the FTC. Fraudsters may impersonate more than one entity in a single communication – “transferring” a call about an Amazon delivery issue to a fake bank or fake FBI agent, for example.

 

They also benefit from more individuals conducting business online, with scammers inserting themselves into a more regular flow of subscription renewals, monthly bank statements, emailed investment alerts, and similar products.

 

Stopping the Scams

The FTC offers basic advice to all consumers to help them avoid becoming victims of impersonation fraud:

  • Skip the Links: If an email comes from an unknown source or looks unreliable in any way, don’t click on any of its contents. Reach out through other methods – calling your bank by using the number on your latest statement, for example.

  • Payment Problems: If you’re asked to pay in gift cards or cryptocurrency, you’re dealing with a scammer. A military-specific offshoot involves fraudsters who claim they can secure “guaranteed” VA benefits if you allow them to help file a claim … and pay an upfront fee.

  • Speed Kills: Scammers prey on judgment lapses, so be sure to read everything carefully and thoroughly. Messaging like “Act Now” or “Ends Friday” may point to bad intentions.

 

MOAA resources also are available, including this piece from our financial and benefits expert and a three-part series on avoiding all types of scams. MOAA also is a partner in the Cybercrime Support Network’s Military and Veteran Program, which aims to protect servicemembers, veterans, and military families from falling victim to fraud. Get more resources from that organization at this link.

 

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About the Author

Kevin Lilley
Kevin Lilley

Lilley serves as MOAA's digital content manager. His duties include producing, editing, and managing content for a variety of platforms, with a concentration on The MOAA Newsletter and MOAA.org. Follow him on Twitter: @KRLilley