Imposter Scammers Pose as Registry Officials — and Even Spies!

Imposters pretend to be from Do Not Call Registry: Internet Scambusters #554

It may seem obvious but the Do Not Call Registry won’t call you, so if you get a call claiming to be from them, it must be an imposter.

Just as evidently, a money-seeking message from someone purporting to be a spy is really coming from an imposter.

But just because it’s obvious, that doesn’t stop crooks from trying it on, as we report in this week’s issue.

Let’s get started…

Imposter Scammers Pose as Registry Officials — and Even Spies!

Imposter scams, in which con artists pose as friends, relatives and officials from legitimate organizations, have been steadily increasing during the past few years.

They’ve taken a sinister and cunning turn, in which scammers pretend to be from the very organizations that are supposed to protect them.

The Do Not Call Registry is the latest victim.

The organization, which allows consumers to stop telemarketers calling them at home, has issued a warning that scammers claiming to be from the Registry are contacting people, inviting them to sign up.

It’s not clear what the crooks are up to but it seems they might be trying to gather personal information that could be used for identity theft.

Alternatively, they may be trying to charge a fee for registration, when it’s actually free (although telemarketers are charged a fee to access the list).

The Registry has posted the following warning on its home page.

“Scammers have been making phone calls claiming to represent the National Do Not Call Registry. The calls claim to provide an opportunity to sign up for the Registry. These calls are not coming from the Registry or the Federal Trade Commission, and you should not respond to these calls. To add your number to the Registry you can call 888-382-1222 from the phone you wish to register, or go click on “Register a Phone Number” in the left column of this page.”

Reports elsewhere suggest the crooks may also be telling people who are already on the register that they must re-apply.

When the Registry was set up in 2003, consumers did have an option to re-register but this was removed in 2008 and registration no longer expires.

However, you can remove your number yourself if you want to, using the same phone number given above. Disconnected and reassigned numbers are also deleted and have to be re-registered. Otherwise, your registration is permanent.

You can also use the number or website to verify you’re listed.

Neither the Registry nor the FTC contacts consumers to verify their listings or to solicit sign-ups.

So if you get a call, you know for sure it’s a scam.

At the last count, more than 157 million numbers were registered, though, of course, as we know, this rarely stops crooked telemarketers from trying to contact you.

For more information on how the Do Not Call Registry works, see Stopping Unwanted Sales Calls.

Meanwhile, in another twisted version of the impostor scam, which would be hilarious if it wasn’t so serious, scammers are also posing as spies from the British Secret Service, MI5.

According to the British newspaper, the Daily Mirror, the imposters either call or email victims, demanding money for some sort of espionage or protection service.

In at least one case, the crook actually said he was the head of MI5.

Not only the Brits have been targeted, says the Mirror. Similar calls have been received in other countries.

MI5 has actually put an alert on its website, which reads:

“Warning: Financial scams referring to MI5 and its Director General. Members of the public in the UK and abroad have received requests for money by e-mail or phone from individuals claiming they work for the Security Service – MI5. Some have purported to be from MI5’s Director General, Sir Jonathan Evans. These requests are a financial scam and have nothing to do with the Service or the Director General. If you receive such a communication, please do not respond to it and report it to the police.”

Naturally, it’s to be hoped that commonsense would prevent people from falling for this one.

Would a secretive spy organization really contact you using a public service like email or phones, asking for money?

We think not!

Imposter crime currently appears in the Number 7 slot of our annual Top 10 scams.

The FTC, which has listed imposter scams in its own Top 10 list of complaints since 2010, says that crooks have also impersonated IRS and other government officials and charities like the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“What is common is that they try to identify with organizations people know about and trust,” the organization says. “They have some kind of logical connection, like that you have to pay taxes on winnings.”

Our regular warning applies for these types of calls: Never assume that the person or message sender is who they say they are.

Even if your caller ID seems to suggest a legitimate source, this can easily be spoofed.

Simply don’t give personal information or agree to any type of payment in response to an incoming call.

If you think the caller might be legitimate, check them out independently using the Internet and phone book listings.

Time to conclude for today — have a great week!