Fraudsters use a wide range of tactics to persuade victims to transfer personal data or money. Although they can vary from assistance in repaying student loans or vaccination cards, the most troubling of these is the imitation of the government.
Over the past few years, these scams have increased, and this points to the brazen nature of the scammers. It became such a problem that the FBI intervened to make more people aware of the fraud.
Read on to see how these government scams work and what to look out for.
Here is the background
If you evoke the thought of a cunning man with a clipboard knocking on a door to “check your water,” you are just around the corner. Also, these government officials are online, completely fake and want to steal your money.
Pretending to be law enforcement or working in a government agency, they often use rude language, aggressive tones or threats to annoy you. Criminals hope that by arming you heavily, they can make you panic and comply with their demands.
One of the most common methods of catching victims is to declare that they did not show up for the jury and have to pay a fine. Another trick is to claim that the identity of the victim is involved in a serious crime, and law enforcement wants to verify your data.
According to the FBI’s Center for Cybercrime Complaints (IC3), the motivation remains the same, but scammers is now using a new tactic to increase heat. Some of them include:
- Refuses to talk to anyone but the potential victim.
- They do not leave voice messages.
- Urging the victims not to tell anyone about their call, including family and friends.
In almost all cases, imitators require payment through schemes such as prepaid cards, bank transfers or cryptocurrencies. And scammers often cheat real phone numbers and names and use fake credentials of well-known government and law enforcement agencies.
How to avoid cheating by pretending to be yourself
The FBI warns of the following signs to look out for: payment is required in various forms, the most common being prepaid cards, bank transfers and cash sent by mail or inserted into cryptocurrency ATMs.
Victims are asked to read prepaid card numbers by phone or send a text with the image of the card. Money sent by mail will be hidden or packed to avoid detection by standard mail scanning devices. Bank transfers are often sent abroad, so the funds disappear almost immediately.
Here are some other ways you can stay safe and detect fraud:
- Legitimate law enforcement never calls anyone to demand payment. Personal information will also never be collected over the phone. So if someone asks for details, such as your Social Security number or date of birth, refuse to give them.
- Any official notice from the government department will be sent to you by mail or in person. If someone shows up in person, insist on checking their credentials.
- If you suspect that you may be a target for scammers, stop correspondence immediately. Contact your local law enforcement and tell them the details of the scam.
You must also file a complaint with the FBI IC3 at www.ic3.gov. Be sure to keep any information about financial transactions, including prepaid cards and bank records, as well as any phone, text, or email messages.
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