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FTC Fights Back Against Scams Mimicking Federal Agencies

Americans reported losing an all-time high of $10 billion to scammers last year, says the Federal Trade Commission, $1 billion more than 2022. Among the top cons: imposters pretending to be from federal government agencies, which cost consumers about $500 million in 2023, Reuters reports. At times using the names of actual agency employees, including FTC Inspector General Andrew Katsaros, scammers try to convince people that there’s a problem with their Social Security check or their identity has been stolen or they owe taxes — or dozens of other ploys that use the mantle of governmental authority to cheat people. “Infuriating,” is how FTC senior attorney Larissa Bungo described it.

The FTC is fighting back with new and proposed regulations targeting impersonation scams — which also include, for example, fraudsters pretending to be grandchildren, fake love interests or bank employees. AI-enabled impersonation scams including deep fakes are also covered by the FTC’s proposed supplemental regulation, which is open for public comment until the end of April. The rules are designed to give the consumer protection agency increased power to sue imposters in federal court and force them to return their ill-gotten gains, plus pay hefty civil penalties. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2021 significantly limited the FTC’s ability to extract such penalties under other statutory provisions. Impersonation frauds “are so egregious that they deserve bigger sanctions,” said Kelley Drye & Warren partner William MacLeod, a former head of the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection. “It’s a deterrent effect.”


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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