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Beware of scammers posing as businesses or agencies

August 22, 2018 GMT

They’re Back! Those pesky calls we all seem to get from scammers pretending to be from the IRS, Microsoft, or lots of other agencies. While out in the community the BBB hears story after story from consumers who say they receive these calls on almost a daily basis.

I recently received a scam call from a very convincing imposter pretending to be the Social Security Administration claiming my number had been shut down because of fraudulent activity. It almost got me.

It’s easy for these con artists to pretend to be someone over the phone, and it can be difficult to tell who’s real and who’s faking it. Scammers depend on this confusion to trick unwitting consumers into giving away their money or personal information.


According to the 2017 Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker Annual Risk Report, impersonation is a very common tactic used by scammers. It’s where the scammer pretends to be a legitimate business that is well known and trusted by the consumer. While all scammers pretend to be some sort of legitimate operation, this particular tactic is where the scammer pretends to be a known, trusted entity.”

These are some of the most common entities we see impersonated:

• The government. The IRS was the No. 1 most impersonated organization of 2017. Scammers often claim you owe back taxes or they need more information or you could be prosecuted. The U.S. Government, in general was the No. 2 most impersonated organization. Scammers often claim you’re eligible for a free government grant and just need to pay upfront taxes to claim it.

• Better Business Bureau. Many of these scams target small businesses. Scammers call to collect unpaid “dues” or email dangerous links or attachments that they claim are related to “complaints.” You should never give personal or financial information over the phone during an unsolicited call from someone you do not know. Instead, end the call and call back through the number in your records or the number on the organization’s website.”

• Publisher’s Clearing House. The No. 4 most impersonated organization is known to give away a lot of money. Scammers take advantage of this and claim that you’ve won millions of dollars. Similar to a government grant scam, you just need to pay an upfront fee to receive your winnings.

• Computer companies. In 2017 the fifth most impersonated legitimate organization was Microsoft and the sixth was Apple. Tech support scammers will buy sponsored links on search engine results pages, cold call and email consumers, and cause alerts to pop-up on computer screens. The end-game is the same: the scammer claims that they can help you with a serious computer problem for a price. Then they try to get you to give them access to your computer so they can install malware of a virus that will help them hack your information.


Along with these entities local law enforcement and charities are often impersonated. Its in your best interest to always be cautious and double check any organization or company that contacts you.

For more information on ways you may be targeted and how you can protect yourself visit bbb.org.

Jeremy Johnson is the Eastern Idaho Marketplace Manager for the Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific. Contact the BBB at 208-342-4649 or email info@thebbb.org.