Have you received a call from the FBI recently? How about the Department of Justice? If so, you’re not alone. People across the nation are reporting mysterious calls from investigators — and all of these calls have one thing in common: They’re scams designed to trick you into revealing personal information.
As anyone who’s talked to an investigator before can tell you, speaking with a federal agent can be nerve-wracking. It’s no wonder so many victims feel pressured into spilling their guts. Tap or click here to see a similar imposter scam involving fake U.S. Marshals and missed jury summons.
The amount of scam calls pretending to be government officials is getting so bad that the DOJ is issuing an urgent warning for citizens to stay alert. These scammers are primarily targeting seniors by pretending to be federal investigators — and if you make the mistake of chatting for too long, they could end up asking for your Social Security number. Here’s why you should hang up the call.
These scammers aren’t investigators! Don’t share anything with them
If you get a call claiming to be from the FBI or Department of Justice, you need to put the phone down. The DOJ has issued a warning about a new type of imposter fraud campaign that primarily targets seniors by phone.
If you’re chosen as a target, the scammers will call you pretending to be DOJ investigators or employees. They’ll ask for your assistance in an “investigation,” which eventually leads to them asking you for personal information.
And if the call goes to voicemail, these scammers won’t give up. Instead, they’ll leave a voicemail with a return phone number. Call the number and you’ll hear a recorded menu that sounds exactly like the real DOJ phone menu. Spend enough time with the recording and you’ll reach an operator that — you guessed it — also tries to ask for personal information.
If you end up speaking with the scammers long enough, you might get asked for information like your SSN, bank account, credit card number and address. To stay safe, know the signs to spot the fakes. Here’s how:
- Any legitimate FBI agent or DOJ officer will not demand cash or gift cards from a citizen. If the person on the phone asks for either, it’s a scam.
- The DOJ can call you for investigations, but you have the right to consult with an attorney before answering any questions. If you tell the person on the phone you would like to speak with a lawyer and they threaten you with fines or punishment, hang up. That’s a clear sign of a scam.
- The DOJ or FBI cannot threaten arrest over the phone. Don’t trust any caller who says otherwise.
- The DOJ will not contact you using foreign area codes. Pay close attention to the number calling you.
I fell for the fake call! What can I do?
If you made the mistake of giving your information to a government impersonator, here are a few steps you can take to protect yourself and your data:
- Report the scam to the FTC by calling 844-330-2020 or on its website at ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
- Submit a complaint to the FBI’s fraud tip line at justice.gov/criminal-fraud.
- If you or another victim you know is a senior, report the crime to National Elder Fraud Hotline at https://stopelderfraud.ovc.ojp.gov/.
- If you shared financial information, call your bank or credit card company and let them know you may be at risk for fraud.
- Set up two-factor authentication for your bank accounts to prevent any unauthorized attempts to access your money. Tap or click here to see how to set up 2FA for your bank.
- If you shared your SSN with the scammer, contact a credit bureau and request a freeze until you’re sure that you’re safe. Tap or click here to see how to perform a credit freeze.
Reporting these crimes will help stop future victims from getting scammed — and can potentially lead to these imposters getting caught. And with so many scams making the rounds these days, the last thing we need is more of these criminals clogging up phone lines.