Consumers, beware: Impostor scams are on the rise.
In fact, they’re so commonplace today that impostor fraud has overtaken identity theft in the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network report, an annual compilation of America’s top consumer complaints.
The 2016 report is based on the more than 3.1 million gripes the Consumer Sentinel Network received from consumers last year.
Although debt collection issues topped the consumer complaint list for 2016, impostor scams surpassed identity theft for the first time to claim the No. 2 spot.
Impostor scams occur when a fraudster pretends to be someone else, typically someone trustworthy — like a computer tech or a government official — and then tries to convince a consumer to send money.
In one example of an impostor scam, someone pretending to be with a car warranty company attempts to bilk consumers out of cash for an unnecessary extended car warranty.
Another impostor scam to watch out for is the recent “Can you hear me?” phone scam.
The FTC says these are the top six consumer complaints in the U.S. for 2016. The percentages represent the portion of overall complaints made last year:
- Debt collection: 28 percent
- Impostor scams: 13 percent
- Identity theft: 13 percent
- Telephone and mobile services: 10 percent
- Banks and lenders: 5 percent
- Prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries: 5 percent
Protect yourself from scams
Fortunately, you can protect yourself from fraudsters. The following tips are included in MTN founder Stacy Johnson’s “10 Golden Rules to Avoid Getting Scammed“:
- Don’t believe the testimonials: “There’s only one kind of testimonial worth believing — the kind that comes from people you both personally know and totally trust,” Johnson writes. You — and your pocketbook — are better off ignoring all testimonials when you’re considering making a purchase.
- Don’t ignore the fine print: “Virtually every deal that goes awry is the result of people listening to the sales pitch without reading the fine print,” Johnson warns. Do yourself a favor and check out the fine print before you make a purchase. If you don’t understand what it’s saying, “find someone who does,” recommends Johnson.
What’s your top consumer complaint? Sound off below or on Facebook.