Government impostor scams have caused costly headaches for many victims as callers claiming to be from agencies like the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration or others scam innocent people out of money.
A recent study from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) shows that reports on government impostor scams have decreased, but the pandemic has allowed for these scams to take new forms that may be more difficult to recognize. From posing as CDC officials to preying on CARES funds, impostors are once again taking advantage of trying times.
A recent survey from AARP showed that 44% of people in the U.S. have been contacted by someone posing as a government employee. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also reports $450 million dollars lost to government impostor scams since 2015. Last year, reports of scammers posing as IRS agents dropped, while scammers posing as Social Security Administration (SSA) employees quadrupled.
In 2019, Texans submitted 10% of BBB Scam Tracker reports on government impostor scams. And while reports are decreasing nationally, Texas reported an increase of 35% in the first six months of 2020 over all of 2019. Recognizing these scams can be crucial to Texans’ financial safety.
Different versions of this scam may include promises of a fake government grant, and the grant “winner” simply needs to pay a fee or provide personal information. Then, the scammer disappears, and the grant never arrives.
In other versions, the scammer calls victims pretending to be from the IRS or SSA, claiming there is unpaid money and the consumer will be arrested until they pay off the debt in full. Government impostors often use fear tactics to pressure people into acting quickly, and spoof caller ID to appear legitimate.
Government impostor scams can be costly and reporting them is an important factor in preventing them for others. Use this information from the Better Business Bureau on how to properly report government fraud:
• IRS: The Internal Revenue Service advises people to fill out the “IRS Impersonation Scam” form on the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Impersonation’s website, tigta.gov.
• Social Security: The Office of the Inspector General, Social Security Administration (SSA IG) has its own online form to take complaints about frauds impersonating the SSA.
• Federal Trade Commission: Contact the FTC at 877-FTC-HELP or ftc.gov.
• Internet Crime Complaint Center: Reach the FBI’s IC3 at ic3.gov/complaint.
• Cellphone carrier: which may offer free services such as scam call identification and blocking, ID monitoring, a second phone number to give out to businesses so you can use your main number for close friends or a new number if you get too many spam calls.
• BBB Scam Tracker: File a report on BBB.org/ScamTracker to let others in your area know to watch for this scam.
Visit the Better Business Bureau at BBB.org/FakeGov to view the full report.