1 “New Data Shows FTC Received 2.8 Million Fraud Reports from Consumers in 2021,” Federal Trade Commission, February 22, 2022
2 “Imposter Scams,” AARP, March 30, 2022
As criminals impersonate trusted figures and set up fraudulent websites, education is the best defense
As our daily reliance on digital communication steadily increases, scammers are evolving their tactics to exploit the trust we’ve built for online and other financial services. Imposter scams are on the rise and are currently the most commonly reported fraud, with approximately 985,000 complaints in 2021 according to the Federal Trade Commission. These types of scams cost victims more than $2.3 billion — double the 2020 total.1
Imposter scams typically begin with an anomalous email (commonly known as phishing), a phone call from a falsified number (vishing), an unsolicited text (smishing) or a social media message. The communications appear to be from trusted professionals such as financial advisors, lawyers or government officials — or family members or celebrities.2 To make them appear more authentic, the perpetrators may even pose as your personal Merrill advisor, or representatives of companies or charities you already have relationships with.
By creating fraudulent websites using legitimate information they’ve harvested from online sources, these scammers lure clients and potential prospects into providing confidential information with the intention of committing financial fraud.
Recognizing that imposter scams exist and are increasing in prevalence may be the best defense against them. But beyond awareness, there are some common red flags that can help you identify these scams before you fall victim, including:
Imposter scams are successful because of how much legitimate information scammers can mine from publicly available information on the web, enabling them to convincingly impersonate a professional or simulate a professional’s website. But by following these best practices, you can protect yourself and others:
In addition, being proactive and coming up with a mutually understood defense against imposter scams with your advisor and professional contacts can be an effective way to decrease your chances of falling victim.
If you suspect you are a victim of fraud, contact us immediately at 1.800.MERRILL(637.7455) or speak to your financial advisor for further assistance.
Forward any suspicious email or text message to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember: Don’t transfer money as a result of an unexpected phone call or text. We will never ask you to send us personal information such as an account number, Social Security number or Tax ID over text, over email or online.
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