Report finds imposter scams top Utahns complaints for 2014; protection advise

UTAH — On the heels of a new report showing the top scam in Utah is imposter scams, the AARP Fraud Watch Network offered tips Tuesday so people can learn how to protect themselves from all 10 of the top scams reported by Utahns in 2014.

How does an imposter scam work?

Impersonating police officers, federal agents or financial service companies, scammers use their “authority” to scare you into paying them. Or, they pretend to be a friend or loved one in trouble who needs money. Examples include a phone call from an IRS official ordering you to pay back taxes, or someone pretending to be a grandchild stranded in a foreign country in need of money from you to get out of trouble.

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network advises people not to wire money or provide personal data over the phone to anyone claiming to be from a government agency like the IRS. Real federal agents don’t email or call to demand immediate payment – official correspondence will come by U.S. mail.

If someone calls claiming to be a family member in distress, check the story with other family members or ask the caller questions that a stranger couldn’t possibly answer.

According to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, 13,057 Utahns reported being scammed last year. Identity theft is a significant issue in the state, with 1,586 Utahns reporting they were an ID theft victim. Age-wise, those in their 50s filed the most complaints – about one in five – while 18 percent of complaints were made by those in both their 40s and 60s.

“Con artists don’t care how hard Utahns have worked,” AARP Utah State Director Alan Ormsby said. “AARP launched the Fraud Watch Network to help people outsmart con artists before they strike. Our mission is to help people safeguard against identity theft and scams so they can keep their hard-earned money.”

The AARP Fraud Watch Network arms Utahns, and all Americans, with the tools they need to spot and avoid scams. A free resource for people of all ages, the Fraud Watch Network offers real-time alerts about the latest scams in your state, a scam tracking map where people can report on scams so their friends and neighbors know what to watch out for, a guide to outsmarting con artists, and a helpline where Utahns can talk to a trained volunteer for advice if they or someone they love has been scammed.

The top scams for Utah are as follows:

  • Imposter scams | 1,591 complaints
  • Debt collection | 1,171 complaints
  • Banks and Lenders | 716 complaints
  • Prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries | 687 complaints
  • Telephone and mobile services | 593 complaints
  • Auto-related complaints | 526 complaints
  • Internet services | 381 complaints
  • Shop-at-home and catalog sales | 358 complaints
  • TV and electronic media | 351 complaints
  • Health care | 244 complaints

The agency’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book is based on consumer complaints filed with the FTC, and is available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies across the country and abroad to help identify fraud trends, research cases, identify victims and track possible targets. It does not include “Do Not Call” complaints.

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