Topeka, KS – The Federal Trade Commission should adopt a national rule to target impersonation scams, giving states an additional tool in their consumer protection arsenal, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said today.
Schmidt joined a bipartisan coalition of 49 state and territory attorneys general in sending a comment letter to the FTC, raising concerns about the plethora of impersonation scams that create problems for consumers, small businesses, and charities in their states. Currently there is no specific national rule outlawing these fraudulent acts.
As illustrated in the letter, impersonation scams take on many forms:
Impersonation of government entities: Fraudsters claim to be from or affiliated with a government agency to persuade victims of the urgency to provide payment to obtain licensing or certificates in document preparation or regulatory compliance scams.
Business impersonation: Fraudsters claim to be working directly for an actual business or as a third party endorsed by the business. Common examples include tech scams in which the imposters claim they are contacting the victim on behalf of companies such as Microsoft or Apple to assist with a ransomware or technology issue.
Person-to-person deceptions: Grandparent scams, romance scams and others use personal information to make a connection with victims. Whether claiming a grandchild is in urgent need of money or creating a fake profile to gain the trust of someone on a social media or dating site, these impersonation scams account for thousands of complaints to attorneys general each year.
Though the methods may vary, impersonation scams cause injury to consumers who lose money, drain resources from regulators tasked with protecting the public, and cause confusion and loss of trust in government agencies and services.
“There is a pressing need for FTC rulemaking to address the scourge of impersonation scams impacting consumers across the United States,” the letter states. “A national rule that encompasses and outlaws such commonly experienced scams discussed [in our letter] would assist attorneys general and their partners in reducing consumer harm, maximizing consumer benefits, and holding bad actors to account.”
The attorneys general recommended a robust national standard outlawing impersonation scams that:
- Deters bad actors and reduces consumer harm.
- Provides needed clarity on what conduct constitutes impersonation, since government and business impersonation scams can range from overt pretense to misleading subtlety.
- Deprives bad actors of the excuse that they were allegedly not aware their activities were illegal in some jurisdictions as opposed to others.
- Provides more opportunities for the states to collaborate with the FTC on multistate enforcement actions against imposter scammers.
- Allows states to enforce their own standards, free of any preemption by a federal rule.
The attorneys general asked the FTC to publish additional consumer and business education materials to help prevent consumers from becoming victims of impersonation fraud. These efforts must serve as a complement to a strong regulation with a robust enforcement scheme, not as an alternative.
A copy of the letter sent to the FTC is available at https://bit.ly/3Hd1O1h.
Kansas consumers who believe they have been the victim of an impersonation scam can file a complaint and find more information on how to protect themselves from these and other scams on the attorney general’s consumer protection website at www.InYourCornerKansas.org or by calling our consumer protection hotline at (800) 432-2310.