If someone claiming to be an FBI or other federal agent calls you on the phone or shows up at your home or office and demands money -- you could be in big trouble!
Not in trouble with the police, but actually, you should call the police -- because it's very likely a scam.
The FBI will not call you and demand money
The FBI recently issued a warning about a scam that involves criminals calling unsuspecting victims from what appears to be an official FBI phone number. By using caller ID spoofing, the scammers make the incoming call seem legit, in order to catch their victims off guard.
If you're on the receiving end, when you answer the phone, the scammer says that you are being investigated for some type of violation and you owe money.
The crooks then threaten you by claiming if you don't pay up immediately, you will be arrested.
The FBI says it has received several reports of instance in which a scammer calls someone and pretends to be a government official from agencies including the FBI and IRS.
According to the FBI, the caller will “request immediate payment of unpaid taxes, delinquent fees or other debt to the government,” and use threats and intimidation tactics to try to get the victim to hand over money.
What makes the scam even more dangerous is the fact that the caller "often knows the name, background and personal cell phone number of the intended victim,” according to the FBI.
FBI impersonator steals $128K from Seattle business owner
In a recent incident in Seattle, a man posing as an FBI agent stole $128,000 from a local money wiring service.
Police say the man flashed what looked like an FBI badge to the owner, and although the business was actually closed, when the owner saw a man who appeared to be a government official, he opened the door.
The imposter first asked to see a computer transaction, and when the business owner became suspicious, the crook showed him what appeared to be a search warrant.
But the owner still wasn't convinced -- and that's when the robber pulled out a gun and forced the man to open the safe -- getting away with $128,000 in cash, according to police, along with the computer that was linked to the surveillance security system.
Rise of 'imposter' scams: How to protect yourself
“The FBI is concerned because of the element of possible impersonation of an FBI agent, it’s a federal crime to impersonate a federal officer,” said FBI Seattle spokeswoman Ayn Dietrich-Williams.
“The FBI will absolutely never demand money from somebody.”
These types of "imposter" scams are starting to become more widespread and an increasingly dangerous threat to American consumers. Scammers are finding new, convincing techniques that allow them to impersonate not only government officials, but also your bank and other companies you trust with your personal and financial information.
Here's how it typically works: you get a call, email or text claiming you've won a prize, you owe money, your help is needed, your account needs to be updated or some other type of action is required on your part -- an action that involves you handing over money or personal information.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there are several types of imposter scams on the rise, including common variations that may request you to either wire money to pay taxes or fees, or help someone you care about.
Before you respond to any type of request like this, follow these guidelines from the FTC to protect yourself.
- Stop. Check it out — before you wire money to anyone. Call the person, the government agency, or someone else you trust. Get the real story. Then decide what to do. No government agency will ever ask you to wire money.
- Pass this information on to a friend. You may not have gotten one of these calls or emails, but the chances are you know someone who has.
Bottom line: If you ever find yourself in this situation, it's always better to be safe than sorry. If the person seems suspicious, hang up the phone, don't open the door and call the police!
How to report a scam
Here's info from the FTC on how to report this type of scam:
If you spot a scam, please report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Report a scam online or call the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or TTY 1-866-653-4261. Your complaint can help protect other people. By filing a complaint, you can help the FTC’s investigators identify the imposters and stop them before they can get someone’s hard-earned money. It really makes a difference.
More tips to protect yourself and your information:
- How to prevent credit card fraud from happening to you
- How to protect yourself from abusive debt collectors
- How to reduce your digital footprint
- If your password is on this list, you need to change it!