February 21, 2024

Office of Consumer Protection Advises Consumers to Be Wary of Impersonation Scams

Montgomery County’s Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) is out with a new warning about impersonation scams after the Federal Trade Commission reported an increase in these crimes over the last year. Impersonation scams involve phone calls or messages from individuals posing as representatives of legitimate businesses or organizations with the intention of obtaining personal information or money through deceptive tactics.

Phone scammers often use "spoofing" to make it look like their calls or messages are coming from well-known organizations such as banks, the IRS or tech support companies. They may use high-pressure tactics and urgent language to make you feel like you need to act immediately and may even threaten legal action if you don't comply with their demands.

In one example, a consumer in Montgomery County reports being targeted in an impersonation scam call in which the scammer claimed to be from Pepco. The caller threatened to disconnect their power if an overdue electric bill wasn’t paid immediately. Fortunately, the consumer was cautious and requested more information, which caused the scammer to hang up.

To protect yourself from impersonation scams, it's important to remain vigilant and safeguard your personal information and finances. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:
  • Don’t engage with unsolicited callers claiming to be business representatives or government officials who demand money or personal information.
  • If you receive such a call or message, hang up or delete it. Don’t click on any links in unfamiliar emails, texts or social media messages.
  • It is important to remember that authentic organizations will never ask for sensitive information or payment over the phone, particularly in an unsolicited call.
  • Never pay anyone who demands payment by wire transfer, cryptocurrency or gift card.
  • Only scammers ask you to pay these ways because they are hard to track, making it almost impossible to recover lost funds.
  • Don’t trust your caller ID. Scammers can effortlessly fake phone numbers to make it look like the call is coming from a legitimate source, but caller ID can be faked.
If you've been the victim of an impersonation scam, contact OCP by email, consumerprotection@montgomerycountymd.gov or call 240-777-0311.