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Imposter Scams

By: Federal Trade Commission

Imposter Scams

Paying with a gift card or wiring money is like sending cash. Do not send money to people you do not know.

  • Do not give out your personal information to people you do not know.
  • Do not give access to your computer to people you do not know.

How do I spot an imposters scam?

Most imposter scams look like this:

  • Someone asks you to put money on a gift card or to wire money.

A scammer might use different ways to convince you to send money. The scammer might say:

  • You have a problem with your computer and you have to pay to fix it.
  • You owe taxes to the IRS.
  • You won a prize, or inherited money, but you have to pay fees first.
  • You won the lottery, but you have to pay some taxes first.
  • A friend or family member is in trouble and needs you to send money to help
  • You got a check for too much money and need to send back the extra.

These are all tricks. When you hear stories like these, you have spotted an imposter scam.

How do I avoid an imposter scam?

Scammers are good at being friendly. They also are good at fooling people. Here is how you can stop a scammer:

  • Never send money to someone you do not know.
  • Never send money because someone contacted you:
    • Even if you feel like you know the person.
    • Even if the person says he is your friend or related to you.

What if I already sent money to someone I don’t know?

If you sent money to someone who contact you, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

  • Call the FTC at 1-877-382-4357
  • Go online:

The FTC uses complaints to build cases against scammers. Any information you can give helps investigators.

Federal Trade Commission | | September 2018