Government Impostor Scam

Many people are understandably very concerned when they get an e-mail, letter or phone call from someone identifying themselves as a representative of a government agency. Scammers are constantly improving their techniques to fool their intended victims into thinking they work for the government – including fake identification and spoofed phone numbers on Caller ID. This scam employs the fear factor to lead you to part with your money or provide financial information to them. They may even threaten to have you arrested if you do not comply.

Learn more from the FTC about Government Imposter Scams

5 Ways to Avoid Becoming a Victim of a Government Impostor Scam:

1. Never wire money

Wiring money is just like sending someone cash! Once it’s gone, you can’t trace it or get it back. Never deposit a check if you do not know who sent it. Also, never wire money back to the sender. No matter how good it looks, the check is most likely a fake.

2. Don’t pay for a prize

If you enter and win a legitimate sweepstakes, you don’t have to pay insurance, taxes, or shipping charges to collect your prize. If you have to pay, it’s not a prize.

If you didn’t enter a sweepstakes or lottery, then you can’t have won. Remember that it’s illegal to play a foreign lottery or sweepstakes through the mail or over the phone.

3. Don’t give the caller any of your financial or other personal information

Never give out or confirm financial or other sensitive information, including your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number, unless you know who you're dealing with. Scammers can use your information to commit identity theft. If you get a call about a debt that may be legitimate — but you think the collector may not be — contact the company to which the caller claims you owe money to inquire about the call.

4. Don’t trust a name or number

Scammers use official-sounding names to make you trust them. It’s illegal for any promoter to lie about an affiliation with or an endorsement by a government agency or any other well-known organization. No legitimate government official will ask you to send money to collect a prize or collect a debt.

To make the call seem legitimate, scammers also use internet technology to disguise their area code or generate a fake name on caller ID. So even though it may look like they’re calling locally or somewhere in the United States, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.

5. Put your number on the National Do Not Call Registry

This won’t stop scammers from calling but it should make you skeptical of calls you get from out of the blue. Most legitimate sales people generally honor the Do Not Call list. Scammers ignore it. Putting your number on the list helps to “screen” your calls for legitimacy and reduce the number of legitimate telemarketing calls you get.

Register your phone number with the FTC by going to this web site: donotcall.gov