A government impersonator scam occurs when someone intending to commit fraud contacts another person and pretends to be an employee or a representative of a government agency. Then, the scammer will lie and pressure the person they contacted to make a payment or give personal information out by threatening or bullying them.
Here’s what you should know about this type of scam and how to get help from a consumer protection lawyer.
Types of Government Impersonator Scams
There are several types of government impersonator scams. Just about any scammer can pose as a government official of some type in an attempt to solicit money from unsuspecting people. However, there are some scams that are more common than others. These include:
Someone impersonating the IRS may call you and say that you owe hundreds or even thousands of dollars in back taxes. The caller will pressure you to pay immediately or risk being arrested. If you are an immigrant, they may threaten to have you deported.
- Know the IRS will never call you directly. If you owe money to the IRS, you will receive a letter in the mail. A private debt collector that works for the IRS may call you, but only after you receive two mail notices about your debt.
- Debt collectors for the IRS will not ask you to make a payment over the phone. They will not ask for you to pay with a credit card or to purchase a money order or reloadable debit card to pay immediately.
Social Security Administration (SSA) Impersonators
A Social Security Administration (SSA) scammer may email, text, or call someone receiving social security benefits, claiming that their benefits will be stopped if they don’t make an immediate payment. Or, they may ask you to confirm your social security number and identifying information in order to send an updated social security card to your home.
- The Social Security Administration will never ask you for your social security number, especially over the phone or via social media.
- The SSA does not issue new cards randomly; you must apply for a replacement if you lose or misplace yours.
- The SSA will not demand a payment from you in order to continue receiving benefits.
Medicare scammers operate in a similar way to SSA impersonators. They may call, email, or send a letter to a person who carries Medicare insurance to either demand payment or offer a new card.
They may threaten individuals that their health insurance will be declined at the doctor’s office if they don’t make a payment over the phone. Or, a scammer may ask a person to confirm their Medicare number, name, address, and other information to get a new card. Meanwhile, that information is used to commit identity theft.
- Medicare will not call you to request you to confirm your insurance ID, unless you’ve left a voicemail after calling Medicare first.
- Medicare will not demand payment over the phone so you can keep your insurance benefits or to get a new copy of your card.
The goal of most government scams is to use fear of government action to pressure individuals into making a fast payment without thinking too critically about where the call is coming from or if they really owe money to a government agency. Another reason a scammer may be impersonating a government agent is to obtain information to steal your identity for fraudulent purposes.
Ways to Identify Someone Impersonating a Government Official
Sometimes, it may be difficult to tell the difference between someone legitimately from a government agency and a scammer. However, the following are some fairly good indicators that you may be dealing with an impersonator:
- Scammers are often from other countries. Listening for a foreign accent isn’t a foolproof detection method since some agencies outsource their call centers to places like India. However, there’s a good chance that someone with a foreign accent claiming to be from a large American agency like the IRS is actually a scammer.
- Impersonators will usually ask for immediate payment, often in the form of gift cards or money orders that are more difficult to trace. You can be confident that anyone asking you to go to your local grocery store for a gift card to make a payment to a government agency is a scammer.
- If you do owe money to a government agency, they typically will not put excessive pressure on you to pay the full amount you owe right then on the phone. They will likely be open to negotiating a payment plan with you, whereas a scammer will be unsatisfied with this suggestion and will continue pressuring you to find a way to make a full payment immediately.
- Real government agencies will not threaten to have you arrested or deported if you don’t pay immediately. They will not pressure you to take out a loan or borrow money from a friend to pay your debts.
How to Report a Government Scam
You can and should report a suspicious call, text, email, letter, or other communication from someone claiming to be a government employee to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC works with law enforcement and other agencies to track down and stop scammers.
Have You Lost Money to a Government Impersonator? Get Legal Help Now
If you were the victim of a government impersonation scam, you may be able to recover some or all of the money you lost by working with an experienced consumer protection attorney.
Mazow | McCullough, PC is a consumer protection law firm serving both Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Contact us today if you believe you’ve been a victim of a scam by calling (978) 744-8000 or toll free at (855) 693-9084. We can help you with data breach & medical privacy cases, false advertising, unfair debt collection, and more.