Imposter scams are costing Americans billions of dollars. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), scammers swindled more than $2.3 billion in 2021, almost double the amount seen in 2022.
Most scams begin with an unsolicited phone call, email, social media post, or text. The message is almost always urgent, requesting the victim act immediately. Imposters either claim there is an emergency requiring immediate attention, such as a compromised account or claim you have won a prize.
Regardless of the scam, the intent is the same – to separate you from your money. One of the most common imposter schemes is to impersonate a government official. The FTC reports that 40% of imposter fraud is someone posing as a Social Security, Medicare, or IRS official.
Fortunately, there are ways to spot government imposters and avoid getting scammed.
Don’t’ Stay on The Line – If you receive an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be a government official, hang up. Government agencies will not call you asking for personal information.
Don’t Press Numbers – If you receive a robocall and press a number on your phone, it may result in more calls later as pressing a number validates your phone number as being in working order.
Don’t Call Back – If you receive a call but a voicemail was not left, do not call the phone number displayed on your caller ID. Doing so will validate your phone number to the scammer and result in more phone calls.
Don’t Send Money – Never send money via wire transfer, cash, gift cards, or cryptocurrency to someone who says they are with the government. These forms of payment are nearly impossible to track.
Don’t Click Links – Do not click on links displayed in an email from someone you do not know personally. Emails from scammers often look like official communications. If you have any questions about a communication you receive, look up the agency phone number on your own and call to inquire about the message.
Don’t Give Personal Information – Never provide personal or financial information to someone who has called, emailed, or texted you. Instead, immediately contact the government agency to report the incident.
Don’t Be Threatened – The IRS and debt collectors who work on their behalf will never threaten to arrest you. However, if the person on the other line does, it is a clear sign they are a fraudster.
Keep yourself safe and be wary of communications from someone you don’t know. If you are ever suspicious of a phone call, email, text, or social media message, never hesitate to contact your police department.
If you ever receive a notice or call from your insurance company and aren’t sure if it is legitimate, reach out to me and I’ll help you track down the issue.