Government Impersonation Scams During COVID-19

This is the 5th in a series of articles posted curtesy of Sunrise MarketPlace and Marketplace at Birdcage to better educate our community on increased scam activity during the Pandemic. This series is meant to help you identify the different kinds of scams and help you to prevent falling victim to any of them.

Individuals — often pre-recorded automated messages — are creating phone scams and phishing attacks by pretending to be an authoritative source like the CDC. These calls even fool caller ID with spoofing. Apps and websites make it simple for people to spoof, or disguise, their number and pretend to be someone else. Luckily, you can simply hang up the phone to get rid of these scammers. However, some people are not that lucky.

Scammers are now craftier than ever and have developed a more sophisticated approach. They typically target young adults or seniors. Many announce they are from agencies like:

  • Social Security Administration.

  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

  • Health and Human Services (HHS).

  • The police, sheriff, or FBI office.

  • Government grant offices.

Often the scammer will create a sense of urgency as well as offer a free benefit that will never come. Or impersonators will ask for a Social Security number or money right away to avoid trouble.

How to Spot

As stated above, imposters have sophisticated lies they tell to make people believe them. The FTC has recognized two deceptions used to steal money:

  • Lottery or sweepstakes: Scammers pose as a government official calling to tell you that you have won a lottery or sweepstakes. However, the defining characteristic of this scam is they might ask you to send money to either a well-known insurance company or a foreign country before you can collect winnings.

  • Fake debt: People will pose as fake debt collectors and threaten to arrest you if you do not pay a debt as soon as possible. However, most debt collectors will not ask you to wire money to pay off the debt.

If you feel there is something off about the call or the government agency, there are a few ways to avoid these scams:

  • Research the agency name, employees, and number to ensure they are legitimate.

  • Do not wire money, as it is not traceable.

  • Do not pay for prizes, as there is no insurance required for legit lotteries or sweepstakes winnings.

  • Put your number on the Do Not Call Registry to weed out the scam calls

How to Report

To report a call from a government imposter, you can file a complaint with the corresponding government agency, such as the IRS. Another option is to submit a detailed report to the FTC, which includes:

  • Date and time of the call.

  • The name of the government agency.

  • The information they tell you.

  • The phone number.

  • Any pertinent details of the call

We hope that you found our latest article informative and helpful, in avoiding becoming a victim of one of the many scams being perpetrated on innocent members of our community, as well as throughout our country. Our next upcoming topic will be on “Cryptocurrency Scams.”

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