Government imposter scam alert: FTC tightens consumer security

Many a times, scammers pose to be government officials in order to make you pay them. Its a totally different story that they use a wide range of tactics to materialize their evil intentions. Some might promise you with guaranteed lottery bonanza, while the other might threaten to have you arrested, unless you yield to their shady deals, i.e. to pay your tax money to them.

To quash the rising trend of scams, especially during tax time, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has got some really potent advice up its sleeve to ward off those vicious creatures out of your life.

Government imposter - How to identify the crooks

As far as identifying the crooks are concerned, then it is extremely difficult to recognise them through the words they say. Still, here are two of the most recent tactics that these government impostors have used to rob people like you of their money:

  1. Too good to be true lottery win or sweepstake - All of a sudden you may receive a call where a nice, convincing voice on the other end of the phone would claim to be a government official, informing you about the big-ticket bonanza you’ve just snapped. To make the offering seem as convincing as it can get, they may even tell you that the lottery has been administered by the federal government. Moreover, you could even come across certain con artists who’d claim to be associated with “the national consumer protection agency”, National Sweepstakes Bureau - a non-existent organization, or even the FTC itself. The best part is that you won’t be able to suspect that the number from which you’ve received the call is actually an illegitimate one. Moreover, you could also receive text messages, e-mails or letters from the scammers.
    • In their messages, these con artists might tell you that you must pay off your taxes in order to become eligible for the winnings.
    • They could also ask you to remit money to a third party or an agent, say for example, “Lloyd's of London” or any other leading insurance company so as to have your prize money delivered to your door step.
    • Apart from that, you may receive a request from them to make payments via wire transfer and most probably to some other country.
    Basically, no government agency, official or insurance company would ever participate in such shady monetary transactions, leave alone organizing a lottery or sweepstakes. They can never resort to such unscrupulous activities. And as far as your money is concerned, then the scammers will disappear once they’ve got the payments.
  2. Fake outstanding loan balance - It is very likely for any person, including you to receive an official looking letter that has got your name, address, Social Security number clearly and properly etched out of the blue. Scammers posing to be debt collectors often resort to such tactics so that it becomes easier to convince their victims of their legal status. These people use all that to establish a clean image in front of their targets and claim to be representing a law firm or a government body. This could be your local IRS office, Sheriff or the FTC. However, things may get murkier when they would aggressively ask you to make the debt payments or have you arrested for defaulting on your loans.

    Truly speaking, it is illicit to ask you to wire money or use a rechargeable money card as a means to pay off your debt. In case, you suspect something amiss, then you can verify the legitimacy of the so-called debt collectors and look up for their official contact number. You can also get in touch with the local government office, agency or employee and unravel the real story behind the scene. This you can do even if the loan owed is true, as per the ruling of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

    Still, there are many variations in the way these imposters operate and rob people. They could claim to be tax officers from the IRS assigned to collect all the back taxes from you, or con artists pretending to be the representatives of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). The latter usual make immigration applicants as well as petitioners their target.

How to ward of government imposter scam

Here are some of the most effective ways to deal heavy handedly with the con artists and prevent yourself from being robbed:

  • Never make any payments to get a cash reward - If you’ve participated in a lottery or a sweepstake, then there is no need for you to make any sort of payments, be it in the form of taxes, insurance, or even freight charges just to collect your prize. Consider it this way, if you are made to for it, then its not a prize. Interestingly, companies such as Lloyd’s of London never provide any kind of insurance coverage for the delivery of the sweepstakes winnings. Hence, if you’ve never participated in a sweepstake, then there is no point of winning one. An important point to be noted here is that it is illegal to play any kind of foreign lottery either via mail or over the phone.
  • Never send money over wire transfer - Most of the time, scammers would force you to pay them via wire transfer. Similarly, they may also suggest you to put a certain amount of money into a debit card and ask you to send that over to them. But, have you enquired why? Its simple, these financial crooks are hell bent on robbing you. If you send them your debit card or through a wire transfer, then you are actually sending them cash money. Once you’ve made the payments, then its gone permanently and you won’t be able to trace that ever again. It is foolish to deposit your winnings check and send them back through wire. Actually, any such checks are predominantly fake and you’d be held liable for payment by your bank in having withdrawn money from your account.

Additionally, security agencies, the FTC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) also suggest people to never share their confidential banking data with others, either over the phone or on the web. You shouldn't even send any check or money order with them help of an overnight delivery or a courier service provider. This is because con artists want to get your money as soon as possible before you can even realize that you’ve been robbed.

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