How to Spot, Stop, and Report Government Imposter Scams
Often times, scammers pretend to be government or other trusted officials to get you to send them money. There are several ways scammers are exploiting COVID-19 and tax season to take advantage of unsuspecting victims. Regardless of their tactics, their goal is the same: to get you to send them money. Consumers reported more than 498,000 imposter scams to the Federal Trade Commission in 2020.
- Nearly 1 in 5 people reported losing money.
- Overall, reported losses were nearly $1.2 billion.
- The median loss was $850.
- Almost one-third of the imposter scams reported involved someone posing as a government representative.
How to Spot the Scam
Scammers will call, email, text, or direct message you on social media.
- Scammers say you did not appear for jury duty and must pay a fine or you will be arrested.
- Scammers say you will be fined, arrested, or deported if you do not pay taxes or some other debt right away.
- Scammers say your Social Security or Medicare benefits have been suspended because of COVID-19-related office closures.
- Scammers say you can get a free COVID-19 test kit from Medicare in exchange for giving personal or financial information.
- Scammers will offer "early access" to COVID-19 vaccines.
- Scammers will ask for money to put your name on a list to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
- Scammers say you owe back taxes, there is a problem with your return, or please verify your information.
STOP. These are all scams!
How to Stop & Report the Scam
- Don’t give information or money to anyone who calls, texts, emails, or direct messages you on social media. Keep your Social Security, bank account, debit and credit card numbers to yourself.
- Never make a payment to someone you don’t know, especially by gift card, mobile payment apps, money transfer, or cryptocurrency. Only scammers will demand you pay that way. They know these payments are hard to reverse.
- When in doubt, check it out. If you’re concerned about the request, contact the agency directly. Look up the government agency’s real number on the agency’s site and call to get the story.
- Report the scam to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
- The FTC has set up a new toll-free telephone number (877-355-0213) for tips on how to avoid COVID-19 vaccine scams.
Common IRS Imposter Scam
How the scam works:
- You get a call, and your caller ID might even show it's the IRS calling.
- The caller might give a phony badge number and know the last four digits of your social security number.
- You are told that you owe money, and have to pay now or you will face jail time.
- The caller says to avoid jail time, you must send a prepaid card or wire to a specific location.
- If you pay, you find out it wasn't the IRS, and the money is gone.
If you get a call, here is what to do:
- Don't give the caller any information, even if you think the call might be legitimate.
- Write down the details, such as the phone number and the name of the caller.
- Hang up!
- Contact the IRS directly. If you think you owe back taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 or visit irs.gov/balancedue
- Warn friends and family of the scam.
Information collected from the Federal Trade Commission- Consumer Information