Attorney General Ford Urges Federal Trade Commission to Create National Rule Outlawing Impersonation Scams

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 media platforms.

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 others.

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 attached