Scammers use anything they can in order to trick their targets. The con artists have begun to say that they are from government agencies such as the Social Security Administration, the IRS, and the Federal Trade Commission. Scammers have been targeting the FTC lately as a way to convince people that they’ve won prizes in contests they have never entered. Using the FTC as a way to scam people is ironic as the independent government agency tracks and prosecutes scammers.
Thieves call random people and say that they are employees or representatives of the FTC. The scammers tell the person that that they’ve won prizes in a sweepstakes or lottery. The “representatives” often give names and office phone numbers of real agency personnel. The person listens to the call, but is eventually asked for personal information and, of course, money. The thieves take the information and the money and disappear, while the victim has little or no recourse. Banks often protect people against fraud, so the scams usually involve paying through cash apps, wire transfers, or gift cards.
The FTC is running a campaign to stop the scams. Government agencies never run sweepstakes or lotteries, nor do they ask for money.
Callers may also say that you owe money to the IRS or court system. Anyone who claims to work for the government is probably a scammer. The FTC has written a guide on identifying the calls and what to do to avoid being a victim.
- Someone calls and says you’ve won a prize, but you must send money to receive the prize.
- The caller offers to help victims of scams recover their money.
- You owe money to the government or IRS. If you don’t pay, you will be arrested.
- You have unpaid debts and your bank account will be frozen until you pay.
Receiving a Call
If you receive a suspicious call, hang up. Do not press 1 to be removed or give out your personal information. The caller may make threats, but do not respond. You can block calls on your iPhone or Android if the number is in the form of a standard number. Scammers use different numbers to confuse targets, so be aware of strange numbers.
Notify law enforcement if the caller makes any type of threats. You should also report the call to ftc.gov/complaint. Include the following:
- Date and time of the call
- Content of any text messages
- The name of the company used by the caller
- If a prize was offered, note the amount of the prize amount.
- How much money were you were asked to send? What was the requested payment method?
- Give the caller’s phone number. Scammers use untraceable Internet phone numbers or spoof a phone number registered to the government agency. Although the numbers aren’t real, law enforcement might be able to trace them with a tracking system.
- Note any other details from the call. Be as specific as possible.