During the past 3 years, there’s been a sharp increase in the number of scammers who impersonate various government agencies in an effort to strong-arm unsuspecting victims out of their hard-earned funds. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says that government impostor schemes are the most common kind of scam perpetuated on American consumers. Of course, if you’re being threatened by someone who claims to work for the IRS, Medicare, or the Social Security Administration, you might think that you should take what they’re saying seriously and follow all of their directions. Instead, heed the tips below and you’ll be able to reliably avoid any government impostor scam.
Only Trust Officially Listed Government Numbers
A large number of government impostor scams are targeting seniors because they know that elderly individuals may overlook small details like a restricted or out-of-area phone number. If you’re contacted by someone who claims to work with a government agency, first check the number that they’re calling from. If it’s unknown or restricted, you’re almost certainly dealing with a scammer. If it shows a number, look up the agency they claim to be from and verify that their phone number matches the officially listed number for the agency before you proceed. If it does not, tell them that you’ll call the agency back at their official number and then end the conversation.
Be Wary of Requests for Personal Information
Anyone who actually works for the government is already going to have your personal information. Plus, any information they don’t already have will usually be requested via conventional USPS mail. To be safe, never provide any personal details such as your address or financial details to anyone who is requesting that information over the phone. Following that general rule of thumb will ensure that you’re never tricked into divulging sensitive information by a scammer who is pretending to work for the SSA, for example.
Do Not Make Any Payments in Response to a Call or Email
Another useful rule to follow is to simply avoid the practice of making payments to any party that requests payments over the phone or via email. Instead, simply tell them that you will process the payment at one of their official locations or via their official website. With that approach, you’ll completely eliminate the risk of helping a scammer achieve their objective, which is almost always to scare a payment out of you. If you stick to a system of only making payments in-person or through secured and encrypted online government payment portals, you’ll have a 0% chance of having your money stolen in an impostor scam.
Remember to Report Scammers
Finally, if you receive an email or a call from a number that shows on your caller ID, it’s important to report the scam to the FTC as quickly as possible. They may be able to track down the scammer or use your shared testimony to understand new developments in scamming methodologies.