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FTC warns of fake government letters sent to small business owners

Email was the favorite contact method used by scammers last year, but regular mail still remains popular.

The Federal Trade Commission says government impersonators are mailing fake notices to small business owners. They’re making up agency names by including words like “United States,” “trademark” and “business regulation." The letters claim it’s time to register or renew a license or trademark and direct people to a website that asks for personal information, like Social Security and credit card numbers.

The FTC advises not using any websites or phone numbers listed in the fake letters. People can visit www.usa.gov to verify the names and contact information for federal, state and local government agencies. Government entities will never ask for payment with gift cards, cryptocurrency or a payment app and never ask you to wire money through services like Western Union or Money Gram.

Imposter scams were the top fraud category in 2023 and cost victims $2.7 billion. In addition to pretending to represent a government agency, these scams included people pretending to be your bank’s fraud department, a relative in distress, a well-known business, or a technical support expert.

More advice for protecting small businesses from scams can be found here.

Information on how to report a scam or suspected scam is available at  ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

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As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.