FTC impostors offering refunds in tech support scams

Local woman says bogus email was sent to her deceased husband

By Mike Holfeld - Investigative Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Virginia Mandel thought it was odd when the Federal Trade Commission’s “Refund Department” sent a poorly written email message last Thursday that announced: “Your refund has been already initiated as per government rules.”

According to the supposed FTC alert, the refund was supposed to cover money lost in a “Fraudulent tech support scheme.”

The message never indicated how much money was lost or the amount that would be refunded.

The email written to her husband Arthur had another glaring flaw;: Arthur Mandel died in 2011.

“I said to my grandson, 'This is for grandpa,'” she recalled. “'He’s been gone for eight years. Why would he get an email for this?'”

Monica Vaca, associate director of the FTC’S Division of Consumer Response and Operations, said that fake FTC refund message is a “recycled” scheme dating back to 2014.

According to Vaca, the whole idea is to get consumers to hand over their personal information.

“The FTC does give out refunds to consumers,” Vaca told News 6. “The trick is we never ever ask anybody to send money first.”

According to the FTC, more than 311,000 consumers have reported being contacted by government impostors through Sept.11 with total losses estimated at $67.3 million.

According to Vaca, government impostor schemes cost U.S. consumers almost $500 million last year.

Vaca said the email con men keep recycling the FTC deception because it is
cheap to setup and can be lucrative for the people behind them.

“This is not a scam that is unique to Central Florida," Vaca said. “This is a scam that’s been going around the country for a long time."

The email appeared to come from the FTC’s “Refund Department” but in fact that department is actually called the Office of Claims and Refunds.

And yes, the FTC does issue refunds.

According to the FTC, between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018, ”the agency’s law enforcement actions yielded more than $2.3 billion in refunds to defrauded consumers, including $122 million mailed directly by the FTC to 2.2 million people.”

You can find the numbers of consumer complaints about all government imposter scams by clicking or tapping here.

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