Spotting imposter scams, debt relief scams


By Marione MartinI’ll just tell you upfront that this is a last-minute column. Our officer manager has been out due to an injury for about six weeks now. Then in the middle of the afternoon Tuesday, we had a power outage. OG&E quickly worked to restore power, but we had to get our computers up and running. Some of them decided it was a good time to do updates. Tuesday has been a frustrating day.

So, I decided to share some information I’ve been accumulating from the Federal Trade Commission. Here’s a report on imposter scams:

Last year, people reported almost half a million business and government imposter scams directly to the FTC. These reports reveal three trends:

Scammers are relying more on text or email messages to start their schemes, and less on phone calls.

Scammers are increasingly convincing people to send money through bank transfers or to pay with cryptocurrency.

Scammers often impersonate more than one organization, like a business and a government agency.

And these are the five most common imposter scams people described:

Scammers send bogus alerts about suspicious activity or unauthorized charges on your account. Our recent blog post, “Did you get a call or text about a suspicious purchase on Amazon? It’s a scam,” breaks down this complicated scam.

Scammers send you phony notices saying they’re going to charge you hundreds of dollars to renew a subscription, often impersonating Best Buy’s Geek Squad tech support service. Find out how to recognize a fake Geek Squad renewal scam.

Scammers try to trick you into paying for things like fake discounts, bogus giveaways, or non-existent prizes.

Scammers make bogus allegations implying you committed a crime but then claim they’ll connect you with someone who’ll help. To learn more about this intricate scheme, read “Never move your money to ‘protect it.’ That’s a scam.”

Scammers send you fake delivery notifications to trick you into giving up your financial information and have been known to impersonate the U.S. Postal Service and FedEx.

If you spot a scam, or something you think is a scam, tell the FTC:

Here’s another informative piece about debt relief scams:

Are you looking for ways to pay off credit card debt? Offers to help you cut down or wipe out your debt might sound like a perfect solution, but dishonest debt relief companies will take your money and do little or nothing to help. So how do you get real help and skip the scammers?

If you’re having trouble keeping up with payments, it can help to make a budget. Use a worksheet to help you figure out where your money goes and if there are ways to cut your spending. If you’re already behind on your bills, don’t wait. Call your creditors and explain your situation before a debt collector gets involved. Try to work out a payment plan with lower, more manageable payments.

Learn to spot scammy debt relief companies that make all kinds of promises to get your money upfront:

• Never pay anyone who tries to collect fees from you before they do anything to help you deal with your debt. That’s illegal.

• Don’t share your financial or personal information with someone who calls unexpectedly, offering to help you settle your debts. That’s probably a scammer.

• Don’t do business with anyone who guarantees you results from a “new government program” for a fee or tries to enroll you without first reviewing your financial situation.

Who can help? You could work with credit counseling program to help you manage your money and debt. Look for these services at credit unions, universities, military personal financial managers and U.S. Cooperative Extension Service branches. Many of these organizations offer services with low fees, but make sure you ask how much they’ll charge you.

Learn more at Suspect a debt relief scam? Tell the FTC at


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