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What Are Imposter Scams and How to Protect Yourself?

Imposter scams come in many varieties, but work the same way. Learn how to spot an imposter scam and protect yourself from being scammed.

By: Sylvia Slezak | Jan 2024

Photo by Mimzy

The call came from his grandson, or at least the voice sounded real, and the plea was unmistakable.

"Grandpa, I've been arrested, and I need you to pay the bond fee. Please don't tell mom or dad, but they said I'm in jail because they found pot in the car. I need you to talk to the attorney to know how to help me."

But it wasn't real. It was just another example of imposter scams that start with a wrong call. With the right technology, like AI, five seconds are all fraudsters need to duplicate speech. The grandson whose voice was being spoofed was likely accessed by simply answering a phone call.

It didn't end there. The 82-year-old grandfather was distraught and wanted to help his grandson, whom we'll call Adam. A man who claimed to be an attorney told Grandpa to send five thousand US dollars by courier. The reason given was that the bail bond company didn't accept any other form of payment. Grandpa did as he was asked. Got the cash, placed it into an envelope, dropped it off at courier and off it went.

Nothing was said to Adam's parents. A few days later, Grandpa received another phone call asking for more cash. It just so happened that his daughter called shortly after and was saying how Adam was doing well. Grandpa was surprised and finally ended up sharing what had happened to him earlier. Fortunately, the authorities were called and after weeks of investigations, they were able to find the scammers and Grandpa was able to get his money back. But, this is not always the case.


"It's a real thing, and we're seeing examples more and more," said the local police officer who spent the bulk of their career in law enforcement focused on fraudulent crimes. "It can start with a phone call out of the blue. You say something, and from that simple interaction, scammers can use artificial intelligence to develop a pattern of your voice, then use their keyboard to create your words in sentences."

Using familiar techniques and combining them with innovative technologies, scammers can easily get your money and personal information. They rely on human reaction when faced with various calamities, such as kidnapping, legal trouble, car accidents, and financial windfalls. It's the perfect way to grab your attention.


Imposter scams are not limited to spoofing phone calls. Using new technology, they can create social media profiles then message you for help or make a get-rich offer that sounds too good to be true.

In the earlier example given, the grandfather could have called his grandson to see how he was. If the phone wouldn't have been answered, he could have called his daughter. Times like these, there shouldn't be any secrets. This situation ended on a happy note. But others aren't as lucky when it comes to imposter scams.

"I was a detective for more than 20 years," the investigating detective said. "The last few years, we started seeing an increase in this type of fraud. People would show up at the bank saying they needed to withdraw money because their child or family member was in trouble. Criminals are using the latest technology to spoof you in realistic ways while using old-fashioned techniques to gain access."

Social media is only making it easier for imposter scammers.


Once you're a target, the scammer will research your information in order to appear as if they know you well. They can also glean information from the dark web. Unfortunately, nearly everyone's information is out there.

Today's technology can create false identities or documents. Imposters can create what sounds like your voice. They can even do facial recognition to beat the current technology. The scammer can create conversation by simply typing commands that a computer-created voice mimics. All it takes is for a criminal with access to the dark web to purchase the right program.


Enough of scammer possibilities. Let's see how you can fight back with a few simple steps:

  1. If you don't recognize the phone number - DON'T ANSWER IT!

  2. DON'T TRUST Caller ID solely. Scammers can spoof numbers and make it appear legitimate, such as a popular business or your bank.

  3. DON'T ANSWER WITH HELLO OR YES. When you pick up the phone, say, "How may I help you?" If no one answers, immediately hang up and block the number. AVOID SAYING YES or your name to anything.

  4. DON'T TRUST the voice on the other end when there's an urgent request for money. Not even when it sounds like someone you know. Hang up and call the person they claim to be for verification.

  5. DON'T HIT REDIAL if the call is urgent. Hang up and contact the person directly. If you redial, you will be connected with the scammer.

  6. DON'T SEND FINANCIAL HELP. Do not wire money, send gift cards or cash in the mail.

  7. IMMEDIATELY CONTACT YOUR BANK BRANCH. You will have to go there in person to report what's going on.


I particularly use Number 3 because people don't usually answer their personal phone calls that way. When I'm not really sure of the number because I'm expecting a call from an inquiry, I pick up the phone and say, "How may I help you?" Most often the call is ended by the caller. Recently, a call came in and I answered as usual, "How may I help you?" and the response was, "is this a business number?" "Yes, of course, how may I help you?" was my reply.

CLICK. Call ended. Possible scam avoided.

The information presented is general in nature and should not be considered, legal, accounting or tax advice. recommends everyone to be vigilant about fraud and security and that they are responsible for taking action to protect their computer systems. Fraud prevention requires a continuous review of your practices, as the threat evolves daily. There is no guarantee that all fraudulent interactions will be prevented or that related financial losses will not occur.

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