In December 2021, the Federal Trade Commission launched a rulemaking aimed at combatting government and business impersonation fraud.  At the time, the FTC explained that impersonators can take many forms, posing as, for example, a lottery official, a government official, or a representative from a well-known business or charity.  The FTC said that they may use misleading domain names or “spoofed” contact information to appear legitimate in order fish for information they can use to commit identity theft or seek monetary payments. 

In its Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FTC sought public comment on whether and how it should use its authority to address impersonation scams.  In particular, the FTC proposed to address the following types of practices:

  • Impersonation of a government official or agency by a person or organization without authority to act on behalf of that government;
  • Impersonation of a business or its agents by a person or organization without authority to act on behalf of that business; and 
  • Entities that may provide the means and instrumentalities for these impersonators to operate. 

The FTC's request for comment also sought public comment on any issues of concern related to the proposed rulemaking, as well as a specific questions listed in the ANPR.  The questions include, for example: 

  • How widespread is the impersonation of government and business entities, and what types of communication and technology are used to facilitate this? 
  • How should a rule define "impersonation"?  What claims, images, or symbols are likely to give rise to the net impression of government or business impersonation? 
  • Are there individuals or entities that provide the means and instrumentalities for impersonators to conduct such practices?

Although the public comment period for this ANPR ended more than a year ago, the FTC just announced that it planned to hold an informal hearing on the topic on May 4th, in response to a request from a member of the public (who happens to be a former director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection) to hold one.  Requests to present speak at the hearing, and any documentary submissions, must be received by April 14th.