Two Imposter Scams to Avoid in 2024

American consumers lost more than $10 billion to fraud in 2023. Read that again. This mind-boggling number represents a 14 percent increase in losses since 2022. The Federal Trade Commission released these updated numbers in February, highlighting that imposter scams—schemes in which the fraudster impersonates a business, a government organization, or a trusted contact—now represent the largest portion (33 percent) of frauds reported to the agency.

The woeful tale of Charlotte Cowles, personal finance writer for online magazine The Cut, is an example of the pernicious nature of imposter scams. Her afternoon spiraled into a nightmare, starting with one phone call that appeared to be from Amazon (according to her caller ID), and ending a few hours later with Cowles placing $50,000 in a shoebox and handing it through the window of an unmarked SUV.
While this is a particularly egregious example of an imposter scam, the underlying mechanism is a common one:

  • The scammer creates the illusion of trust by mimicking a well-known business, institution, or individual.
  • The scammer leads victims to believe that their financial assets, or even physical safety, may be endangered.
  • The scammer can assist but time is of the essence.
  • The scammer rushes victims through a series of steps that lead to the exchange of money or valuable identity information.

Two variations of imposter scams—particularly relevant to Natural Investments clients—are currently making the rounds:


Charles Schwab reported in February that scammers are manipulating search engine optimization (SEO) tools to promote fake websites in search results. In the place of Schwab and other trusted institutions, the search result and fake website both appear legitimate, with language and images that closely replicate authentic versions of Schwab’s website and login window.

Upon attempting to log in to Schwab on the fake site, an error message appears and directs potential victims to contact a hotline number for further assistance. The fraudster posing as a Schwab employee at the hotline advises victims that their account has been compromised and that someone is attempting to steal money from their account. The fake employee then typically directs victims to download software to their device, ostensibly to protect their account from further harm. Once installed, the fraudsters use this entryway to the victim’s device to attempt unauthorized access to accounts and sensitive personal information, potentially resulting in monetary losses and identity theft.
How can clients avoid such a devious scheme? There are a few simple steps:

  1. Access websites by typing in the full address. For instance:
  2. To bypass search results altogether, save important websites in your browser’s bookmarks.
  3. If pop-up windows appear on the site before entering the user account page, do not engage. It’s likely a spoofed webpage.
  4. If you are directed to call a telephone number, verify this number separately in another window or on another device.
  5. Beware of fund requests through gift cards or using services like Zelle, Venmo, or Cash App.
  6. Pausing to verify information and slowing down your reaction to potentially fraudulent activity is key.


At this time of year, tax scams are also rampant. Scammers contact taxpayers by phone, email, and text message regarding owing a payment or accessing a refund. Scammers will also send physical mail, using letterhead that is deceptively official. This is especially troublesome as the IRS usually makes initial contact with a taxpayer regarding an issue through the mail. These fraudulent requests typically involve a quick turnaround time—the taxpayer is often given a window of just a few days to reply. As with other imposter frauds, the use of fear and confusion is a key tactic.

The IRS suggests several actions and resources to counter these scams:

  • Never click on links included in emails or social media messages that appear to be from the IRS.
  • If you receive a letter, check the IRS website for the letter type referenced in the upper
  • right-hand corner.
  • Create an account on the IRS website so you can monitor your tax activity and identify any suspicious transactions.

You can review the IRS’s recommended action steps on its website, including sections on identity theft, phishing, and tax fraud. Finally, checking with your financial advisor is also a good idea. If the communication you’ve received is causing fear or panic, take steps to verify the supposed issue. Taking extra time to double check alarming claims can help you avoid becoming another statistic in the growing trend of financial frauds.

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