Skip to main content

To turn the old adage on its head, imitation is the insincerest form of falsity. After years of fighting back against scammers who impersonate government agencies and companies, the FTC proposed a Trade Regulation Rule on Impersonation of Government and Businesses. The Rule would allow the FTC to recover consumer redress from impersonators or to seek civil penalties against those who violate the Rule. After a painstaking process of considering public comments about the proposal, the FTC just published a Final Rule  – and we think it’s an important step in the fight against this form of fraud. 

In considering the proposed Rule, we heard from consumers who have been substantially injured by impersonators and heard from the government agencies and businesses whose names have been misused to perpetrate the fraud. We also considered statements at an informal public hearing on the proposal. You’ll want to read the Final Rule for the specifics, but here are some highlights:

  • The new Rule specifies that it’s a rule violation – and an unfair or deceptive act or practice under the FTC Act – to “materially and falsely pose as, directly or by implication, a government entity or officer thereof” or to misrepresent “affiliation with, including endorsement or sponsorship by” a government entity or officer.
  • The new Rule similarly specifies that it’s a rule violation – and an unfair or deceptive act or practice – to “materially and falsely pose as, directly or by implication, a business or officer thereof” or to misrepresent “affiliation with, including endorsement or sponsorship by” a business or an officer of that business.

The Rule outlaws some of fraudsters’ favorite means of impersonation – for example, deceptively using government seals or the logos of businesses; spoofing government or business email or web addresses, including the bogus use of “.gov” email addresses or adopting lookalike email addresses or URLs that rely on misspellings of a company’s name; and falsely claiming a connection with a government agency or business (like telling a consumer “I’m calling from the Clerk’s Office” to falsely imply an affiliation with a court).

Just to be clear, government and business impersonation of this sort has always violated the FTC Act, but now that there’s a Rule in place, the FTC can seek consumer redress and civil penalties, powerful tools that hit scammers where it hurts: in the wallet. The Rule will take effect 30 days after it runs in the Federal Register.

That’s not the only update on the impersonator front. The FTC also has announced a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking related to Proposed Amendments to Rule on Impersonation of Government and Businesses. We look forward to your feedback on a series of questions – for example, should the FTC add language to the Rule that would prohibit impersonating individuals? And should the Rule include language to make it illegal to knowingly provide scammers the means to harm consumers through impersonation? Once the Supplemental Notice appears in the Federal Register, you’ll have 60 days to file a public comment. 


It is your choice whether to submit a comment. If you do, you must create a user name, or we will not post your comment. The Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes this information collection for purposes of managing online comments. Comments and user names are part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public records system, and user names also are part of the FTC’s computer user records system. We may routinely use these records as described in the FTC’s Privacy Act system notices. For more information on how the FTC handles information that we collect, please read our privacy policy.

The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
  • We won’t post comments that include vulgar messages, personal attacks by name, or offensive terms that target specific people or groups.
  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

Richard Bryan
February 21, 2024

The new rule would be much more effective if it included and allowed for a private cause of action against violators. Yes, common law fraud is available, but that's too much too unwieldy to be of much use.
Thank you.
Richard Bryan, Esq.
New York, NY

C. L. Tryon
February 20, 2024

As an individual, I am fearful of the risk of becoming a victim of AI. Please include language to protect individuals and make it illegal to knowingly provide scammers the means to harm consumers through impersonation.

Concerned citizen
February 26, 2024

More rules on AI, generally speaking, will stifle innovation. Please seek private sector solutions that can evolve with the technology first.

Icepick Web De…
February 29, 2024

Impersonation is a deceptive practice that can cause significant harm to individuals and undermine trust in online interactions. By explicitly prohibiting impersonation in the Rule, the FTC can send a clear message that such behavior will not be tolerated and provide a legal basis for enforcement actions against those who engage in it.

More from the Business Blog

Get Business Blog updates