By Former MoneyWise Staffer, Kelly Griese
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
“I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” President Reagan called those the nine most terrifying words in the English language. And when it comes to government impostor scams, I agree.
According to our friends at the Better Business Bureau (BBB), one of the most common scams in the U.S. and Canada involves callers pretending to be government officials. They claim to be tax officials, representatives from the Social Security Administration, police officers, and even Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials. The criminals demand money and personal information. They often threaten legal action and imprisonment. We’ve talked before about con artists using fear and intimidation to manipulate their victims. Such tactics often cause us to stop thinking logically and react quickly on instinct.
The Federal Trade Commission produced a video about how government impostor scams work and offers examples.
Reports of government impostor scams fluctuate, but BBB says they’re growing more diverse and more sophisticated. BBB just released a new investigative study on government impostor scams that you can read by visiting BBB.org/FakeGov. According to a recent AARP survey, 44% of Americans say they’ve been contacted by fraudsters posing as government officials. And the FTC says victims of government impostor scams report losing $450 million since 2015.
Remember, if the call is really from a government official, they will NEVER:
- Threaten you
- Demand immediate payment over the phone or via email
- Require payment by cash, gift card, pre-paid card, or wire transfer
There are several ways to report government impostor scams, depending on who the con artist claims to be:
- IRS - Fill out the “IRS Impersonation Scam” form on the Treasury Inspector General or Tax Impersonation’s website, tigta.gov, or call TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484.
- 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 - 877-FTC-Help or ftc.gov.
- Internet Crime Complaint Center - https://www.ic3.gov/complaint/splash.aspx.
The MoneyWise Matters blog has a wealth of information about managing money and avoiding fraud. You can look through the complete archive here.