Top Frauds of 2018: Recapping the Worst Imposter Scams

Definition of Fraud

Imposter schemes are ever evolving, and last year was no exception — they were the number one scam reported to the FTC, resulting in victims losing nearly $488 million. With such high take rates, the effects of imposter scams are devastating to businesses and consumers alike. Let’s review the top imposter frauds that arose in 2018.

Romance Gone Bad

According to the FTC, consumers were blinded by love and tricked out of $143 million in 2018. Scammers are targeting victims online through dating sites, apps, and social media. By using a fake profile, the criminal first gains the victim’s trust and affection, then later pleads for money to help with an emergency. Once the thief receives the funds, typically requested by gift card or wire transfer, chances are they will ask for more or the victim will never hear from their sweetheart again.

Sports Fan Beware

Fraudulent websites and social media ads are promoting sports tickets, apparel, and memorabilia at a discounted price. Consumers are charged for the purchase but never receive their order. If their merchandise does arrive, it is often counterfeit. These suspicious websites may also have an unsecured check out designed to steal payment information.

New Elderly Scheme

Year after year, phone and email scams target the elderly community. Criminals pose as relatives and friends requesting gift cards and checks. A recent variation of this scheme now includes criminals posing as grandchildren and asking their target to send a lump sum of cash in an envelope. Victims of this scam, age 70 or older, report losing an average of $9,000 to these fraudsters.

Telephone Scams

Scammers attempt to steal your money or personal information through phone calls from real people, robocalls, or text messages.


In 2018, an estimated 47.8 billion robocalls were made in the United States, an increase of 56.8 percent from 2017, reports YouMail Robocall Index.

One of last year’s schemes was particularly devious. Thousands of individuals received a call where the caller starts the conversation by asking, “Can you hear me?” Your instinct is to reply “yes,” and the scammer is prepared to record your response as evidence to use as proof that you agreed to a purchase or credit card charge. If you decide to challenge this scam, they will contest that they have the audio of your concession.

IRS Tax Fraud

Last month, a new approach to an old IRS scam surfaced, targeting taxpayers’ 2018 income earnings. Criminals claiming to be the IRS have started sending emails with what appears to be a voicemail attachment. The attachment leads to a SharePoint site, which can be used to spread malware to your devices and collect personal information.

Tips to Avoid Being a Fraud Victim

  1. Before trusting an email, check the sender’s email address. Even if it appears to come from a reputable company, make sure the email address is genuine. An email from PayPal will come from PayPal.com and not something else.
  2. Check validity of a link before clicking on it. Fraudsters will disguise malicious links with seemingly harmless, hyperlinked text. Hover your mouse over a link to verify it is going where it should before you click.
  3. Don’t give in to pressure to take immediate action. Ask questions and do your research on the opportunity or threat. If you receive a suspicious phone call, hang up and call the appropriate organization to confirm
  4. Stay up to date with the latest scams: Follow these alerts on our blog https://www.fightingidentitycrimes.com/scam-news-summary/

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of EZShield Inc. alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or entity, including specifically any person or entity affiliated with the distribution or display of this content.

Steve Turner, Chief Information Security Officer
Steve is the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at Sontiq, the parent company of the EZShield and IdentityForce...
Read more about Steve Turner.

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