Scammers are increasingly using phone calls, emails, and even text messages to impersonate government officials in an attempt to steal money and personal information.
The plan is simple for these “imposter scams.” They call, email, or text claiming to represent a government agency such as the Social Security Administration (SSA), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), or Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Some even “spoof” their phone number or email address so that it looks like the call or email is coming from a legitimate government phone number or e-mail address. They lure victims by telling them they’ve “won the lottery” sponsored by the federal government or “owe a debt” to the IRS that must be paid back immediately. They may even claim that a person’s social security number has been linked to criminal activities and suspended, and all they have to do to reactivate it is to “just confirm” the social security number. They will often use threats of arrest or harsh legal action to create a sense of panic, and demand payment via wire transfer or gift card (so the payment cannot be traced).
For those targeted by these scams, the consequences can be devastating. And while scammers can steal money from adults of all ages, older adults and people with disabilities are often singled-out and targeted.
One of the best protections against this and other scams is knowledge. When people are familiar with these scams, they are less likely to lose money.
Here is what people need to know:
These general tips can also help everyone protect themselves:
Victims of any scam should file a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Complaint. In addition, SSA has a reporting form specifically for social security imposter scams.
Source: Lance Robertson, Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging, ACL
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