Scam Alert: Scammers Pretending To Be Government Representatives

Monday, August 31st 2020, 12:38 pm
By: CBS News

The Federal Trade Commission says from 2014 to 2019 Americans lost nearly a half billion dollars to criminals posing as a government representative.

Millions of Americans are familiar with the robocall scam where you get a call with this recording: "The reason of this call is to inform you that IRS is filing lawsuit against you."

The good news: The Better Business Bureau says complaints about the fake IRS call dropped 89% from 2018 to 2019 as people got wise to the con.

The bad news: Scam artists are now pretending to be from another government agency. People are getting calls with this recording: "This call is regarding to your Social Security number. We found some fraudulent activities under your name."

Machel Anderson received a similar call and followed instructions to talk to a representative. The person claimed her Social Security number had been compromised. In January she told lawmakers on Capitol Hill what happened. "This man told me my family was in danger. That my social security number was being used by a very powerful drug cartel and that they would be watching my every move. That to protect our money, I would need to transfer all of it to a safe offshore account."

She wired more than $150,000 to Hong Kong before realizing she'd been scammed.

Steve Baker is an investigator with the for the Better Business Bureau. He says, "Social Security does not just call you like that, Social Security numbers are never suspended."

A report from the BBB says complaints about these calls jumped 410% in 2019 compared to 2018.

Baker says, "I'd be surprised if most people don't get a call from somebody pretending to be Social Security in the next couple of months, you really gotta watch out."

Scammers can also spoof phone calls so they appear to be from the Social Security agency.

Overall scam calls are down this year. The pandemic slowed down illegal call centers for a while and the government has been able to stop scam calls coming from outside the U.S.

But Baker says con artists are resilient and always find new ways to rip off people.