The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has issued a notice warning people that scammers pretending to be from the government are on the rise. FTC’s Data Spotlight reports that nearly 1.3 million complaints about government imposter scams have been recorded since 2014. The data shows this number is rapidly increasing each month. The previous monthly record for reported complaints was 38,400, recorded in September of 2016. Recent reports indicate 41,400 reported complaints in March, 39,600 in April, and a whopping 46,600 in May of 2019.
Nearly all (96%) of the people who reported government imposter scams from January 2018 through May 2019 were contacted over the phone. These calls can be quite convincing as they usually involve a threat from an apparent government authority. The vast majority of the imposters claim to represent the Social Security Administration (“SSA”), spouting frightening lies like “your Social Security number has been suspended, we need you to verify your Social Security number before we can ensure your money is safe.”
The FTC offers these tips to protect against the government imposters:
- Do not trust any caller from a government agency who asks for money or personal information (especially a Social Security number).
- Do not trust caller ID; the phone number and name can be faked.
- Never pay with a gift card or a wire transfer over the phone.
- Always check with the actual Agency to see if it is really trying to contact you.
Thanks to summer law intern Lyssabeth Pedersen for this helpful information.