15 Brands (and Organizations) Scammers Impersonate the Most

Contrary to popular belief, number one is not the IRS.

A phone call claiming you owe money to the IRS, an email saying your bank account is frozen, a text message alerting you of a free gift you “won”—chances are you’re familiar with at least one (if not all) of these scams. Yet it’s still normal if you feel on edge about falling for one of these scams, or end up ignoring a legitimate email thinking it to be scam on accident. To put your worries at ease, here are the organizations that scammers impersonate the most. It’s best to be aware of these common online scams while you’re at it too.

What brands and organizations get impersonated the most?

Chances are you received a scam call from the Social Security Administration last year. According to the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker Risk Report, it was the organization scammers impersonated the most in 2019. Publishers Clearing House and Microsoft were the second and third most impersonated organizations, respectively. Here is the full list:

  1. Social Security Administration
  2. Publishers Clearing House
  3. Microsoft
  4.  U.S. Internal Revenue Service
  5. Apple
  6. Amazon
  7. Medicare
  8. Walmart
  9. Cash Advance/Advance America
  10.  Better Business Bureau
  11. Facebook
  12. U.S. Treasury
  13. PayPal
  14. Dominion Energy
  15. Capital One

The most common scams

If someone is impersonating the Social Security Administration, they pretend to be a representative of the organization and tell the victims that there are problems with their Social Security number, according to the report. They then ask the victims to make cash or gift card payments to avoid arrest. Other common scams are where someone pretends to represent a well-known company that distributes sweepstakes or lottery winnings, such as Publishers Clearing House, or where someone claims to represent a well-known technology company such as Microsoft or Apple. Scams where someone pretends to represent a government agency, the IRS, the Canada Revenue Agency, a well-known travel brand, or a well-known bank or credit card company are also common. Here are some common text-message scams you should be aware of.

“If you are being offered a financial reward or some other benefit, always assume it could be a scam,” says Kenny Trinh, CEO of Netbooknews. “If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You may have a long-lost Nigerian uncle or be a distant relative of a Saudi prince who wants to give you their inheritance, but it is rather unlikely.” Next, find out more about why you shouldn’t call back an unknown number.