February 23, 2022
Carson City, NV — Today, Attorney General Aaron D.
Ford announced he has joined a bipartisan coalition of 49 attorneys
general calling on the Federal Trade Commission to adopt a national rule
targeting impersonation scams.
Attorneys general serve as the front-line defense against impersonation
scams, seeing first-hand the pervasive problem these acts create for
consumers, small businesses and charities in their states. A comment letter
from the coalition raises concerns about the plethora of impersonation scams
targeting consumers and the current lack of a national rule to outlaw
these fraudulent acts.
“In recent years, we have seen a glut of impersonation scams targeting
Nevada consumers, businesses and others,” said AG Ford, “My office is
committed to protecting Nevadans, and as such, I am calling on the FTC to
implement a national rule targeting these scams. A national rule would give
investigators and law enforcement a new legal tool in combatting these scammers
and keeping Nevadans, and Americans as a whole, free of harassment and attempts
to defraud them.”
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.
In August 2021, AG Ford warned Nevadans that scammers impersonating the
Internal Revenue Service have contacted taxpayers. These scammers tell the
targets of the scams that they need personal information in order to distribute
the Child Tax Credit that began rolling out in July.
As tax season approaches, AG Ford would like to remind Nevadans that the
IRS will not initiate contact about a tax obligation by phone, email or social
Business impersonation: These are scams in which fraudsters
claim to be working directly as the business, 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.
In October 2021 , AG Ford circulated warnings about imposter scams
targeting NV Energy customers. Imposter scammers had begun to impersonate NV
Energy employees and would typically threaten to disconnect customers’
electricity unless the customer immediately paid money. These scammers are
sophisticated. They make use of robocalls or caller ID disguises to appear as though the call is from
a legitimate utility such as NV Energy. Once a customer speaks with the
scammer, they may provide a fake employee ID number and may
even have personal information about the customer, such as addresses.
AG Ford has also warned Nevadans about phishing scams — emails
or text messages designed to trick consumers into giving away public
information. Oftentimes, these scammers pretend to be from legitimate
businesses, such as banks, and attempt to convince the scam’s target to click
on a link that can lead to the theft of personal information.
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.
In October 2021, AG Ford warned Nevadans about scammers asking for
payment through gift cards while impersonating anyone from family members to
coworkers to government officials. They may also pretend to be romantically
interested in the target of the scam. They will create an imaginary urgent
situation and demand the scam’s target pay them through gift cards in order to
resolve the situation.
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.
A robust national standard outlawing impersonation scams should:
Deter bad actors and reduce consumer harm.
Provide needed clarity on what conduct constitutes
impersonation, since government and business impersonation scams can range from
overt pretense to misleading subtlety.
Deprive bad actors of the excuse that they were allegedly
not aware their activities were illegal in some jurisdictions as opposed to
Provide more opportunities for the states to collaborate
with the FTC on multistate enforcement actions against imposter scammers.
Allow states to enforce their own standards, free of any
preemption by a federal rule.
The Attorneys Generals urge 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.
“There is a pressing need for FTC rulemaking to address the scourge of
impersonation scams impacting consumers across the United States,” the
coalition’s 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.”
AG Ford was joined by the attorneys general
of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona,
Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida,
Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine,
Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana,
Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina,
North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South
Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington,
West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
The comment letter is