If there’s one thing we know about cybercriminals, it’s that they’ll do whatever it takes to take advantage of you. Most are very organized and use sophisticated techniques that are always changing to stay ahead of software patches and law enforcement.
Recently, criminals have been focusing on spoofing websites and phone numbers to trick people into handing over valuable information. Tap or click here for an example of a fake text supposedly from your bank.
The bank example is scary enough, but imagine getting a call from the FBI with an “agent” claiming you’re in trouble. That’s actually happening to victims all over the country, but don’t fall for the scam.
FBI warns about government impersonation scam
The Federal Bureau of Investigation sounded the alarm this week about a convincing scam. It’s seen a huge increase in the number of phone calls spoofing the FBI’s phone number.
Here’s what’s happening: Scammers are spoofing the FBI Headquarters’ phone number, 202-324-3000, so the call appears to be coming from the bureau.
During the scam, the caller pretends to be an FBI agent who wants to inform you your Social Security number has been suspended. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Well, it’s actually happening to victims right now.
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The imposter even gives victims a fake name and badge number to trick people into believing they’re a real FBI agent. Since the phone number on caller ID matches the FBI Headquarters’, people are buying into the story.
You might be able to guess what happens next. Yep, the crook tells the victim the only way to get their Social Security number reinstated is to purchase a gift card, put money on it and call back with the card number.
If you actually follow through with this and call the fake agent back, they hang up the moment you give them the information.
The FBI said one way to know whether you’re receiving a fraudulent call is that legitimate law enforcement officers do not demand cash or gift cards from the public. This type of scam is what’s known as government impersonation fraud. It’s when criminals impersonate government officials in an attempt to collect money.
But sometimes the scammers don’t ask for money. They will threaten to extort victims with physical or financial harm to get their hands on personally identifiable information (PII). This is used to steal your identity and can cause all kinds of problems, like destroying your credit and draining your bank accounts.
How to protect yourself from this scam
The FBI wants to help cut down on successful scams. It offers tips on red flags and how to handle government impersonation fraud attacks.
According to the FBI, here are a few ways to stay protected:
- Be wary of answering phone calls from numbers you do not recognize.
- Do not send money or gift cards to anybody you do not personally know or trust.
- Never give out your personal information. This includes banking information, Social Security number or other personally identifiable information over the phone or to individuals you don’t know.
- If you receive a questionable call about Social Security, hang up and report it immediately.
Also, remember the Social Security Administration could call you in some situations, but it will never:
- Threaten you
- Suspend your Social Security number
- Demand immediate payment
- Require payment by cash, gift card, pre-paid debit card or wire transfer
- Ask for gift card numbers over the phone
- Demand you wire or mail cash.
Now that you know how to stay safe, you should be able to avoid falling victim. Don’t forget to share this article with friends and family so they also know what to watch for.