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FBI impersonation scam
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Security & privacy

That’s not the FBI on the phone, but here’s how scammers will scare you

There are plenty of scams in the wild that you need to know about. This time of year, holiday scammers are out in full force. Tap or click here for three of the most prominent holiday scams and ways to avoid them.

Those aren’t the only devious schemes to worry about. There’s a new ruse making the rounds where thieves pretend to be calling from the FBI. The thought of getting a call from an FBI agent is frightening enough, but this one adds scare tactics to rip you off.

Read on to find out how this scam works and a few ways to outsmart them.

Here’s the backstory

You already know how annoying unsolicited phone calls can be. But the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns that some calls have gone from annoying to dangerous.

What’s happening now is scam callers are pretending to be FBI agents. If you get one of these calls, the fake agent will spin a frightening tale hoping to catch you off guard and steal your money.

One of the most popular schemes to watch for is the fake FBI agent calling to tell you that you owe a hefty fee to resolve a judgment that’s been entered against you.

The most important thing to remember is that no government agency will call out of the blue demanding money. Even if you owe a fee, you’ll first receive correspondence through snail mail.

Another method to catch victims is to claim that they failed to report for jury duty and must pay a fine. Another trick is alleging that the victim’s identity is implicated in a serious crime and law enforcement officials want to verify your details. As you can see, the ruse can take many turns.

Keep reading for tips on avoiding these types of scams.

How to outsmart imposter scams

The FTC wants everyone to know that federal agencies do not call or email individuals threatening arrest or demanding money. If you ever get such a call, it’s a scammer trying to scare you.

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), almost $110 million was lost to fake FBI calls in 2020, with nearly 13,000 people filing complaints about the bogus calls. 

The FTC offered the following suggestions on how to avoid falling victim to imposter scams:

  • Know that government agencies don’t call and demand money or personal information. Even if you owe money, real government representatives won’t call to threaten to arrest you, freeze your accounts, or take your property.
  • Never pay anyone who tells you to pay with gift cards, cryptocurrency, or wire transfers. No government agency, including the FBI, demands payment that way. Anyone who does is a scammer. Always.
  • Don’t trust caller ID. Scammers use technology to fake the number they call from. Never call back phone numbers from your caller ID or voicemails.
  • Check with the FBI if you think the call or email is real. If you’re worried, contact one of the FBI field offices to check out the call.

Have you seen an impersonation scam? Report it at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Even if you didn’t lose money, your information helps investigators to stop these scams.

Keep reading

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FBI warning: How to spot dangerous counterfeit batteries

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