Scammers Posing As Well-Known Businesses, Agencies: Here's What To Know, Feds Say

Federal authorities are sounding the alarm over scams that impersonate well-known businesses and government agencies.

Federal authorities are sounding the alarm over scams that impersonate well-known businesses and government agencies.

Federal authorities are sounding the alarm over scams that impersonate well-known businesses and government agencies.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Christian Wiediger

 In 2023, data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alone show more than 330,000 reports of business impersonation scams and nearly 160,000 reports of government impersonation scams.

That amounts to nearly half the frauds reported directly to the agency, the FTC said.

Combined, reported losses to these impersonation scams topped $1.1 billion for the year, more than three times what consumers reported in 2020.

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.

While these scams come in many different forms, the FTC says that the top five scams to watch out for are:

Copycat account security alerts: Messages about supposed suspicious activity or unauthorized charges. These messages often include a phone number to call or ask you to text back YES or NO. Though scammers are convincing, it’s not really Amazon or your bank. It’s a scammer who says they can help fix the problem, which is also fake. What they tell you to do is really designed to steal your money. Often, this means transferring funds or loading cash into a Bitcoin ATM to “protect” it.

Phony subscription renewals: Often, they say it’s an account with Geek Squad Of course, it’s not really Geek Squad; it’s a scammer. If you call to sort it out, they’ll say they have to connect to your computer to process your “refund.” Once in, they make it look like too much money was refunded. They demand that you return the difference, often by buying gift cards and giving them the numbers on the back.

Fake giveaways, discounts, or money to claim: They may seem to come from a company you know – say, discounts from your internet provider, a giveaway from a big retailer, or sweepstakes winnings from Publishers Clearing House. Sometimes the so-called offer is about government money you can supposedly claim. These stories are all just another set-up to steal your money. The story ends with you buying gift cards or sending money to claim the deal, gift, or sweepstakes. And that’s always a sign of a scam.

Bogus problems with the law: Scammers pretending to be government agents say your identity has been used to commit a serious crime – often, they claim, money laundering or drug smuggling. They then offer to help you fix the supposed problem, which always involves them telling you to move money or put it on gift cards.

Made-up package delivery problems: Messages pretending to be from the US Postal Service, UPS, or FedEx say there’s a problem with a delivery. They include a link to a website that looks real – but isn’t. Some ask for your bank account details. Others ask you to pay a small “redelivery fee,” but if you do, the scammer now has your credit card information. 

To avoid being scammed, the FTC urges you to take these steps:

  • Never click on links or respond to unexpected messages. 
  • Don’t believe anyone who says you need to buy gift cards, use a Bitcoin ATM, or move money to protect it or fix a problem. 
  • Slow down. Scammers want to rush you, so, again: stop and check it out.

To spot and avoid scams – and learn how to recover money if you paid a scammer – visit Report scams to the FTC at

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