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How To Avoid a Government Impersonator Scam

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Scammers pretend to be calling you from government agencies like the Social Security Administration and the IRS. Or say they work for Medicare. They say that if you don’t pay or you refuse to give them your personal information, something bad will happen. Or maybe you’ll miss out on some government benefit. But it’s a scam. Learn the signs and avoid the scam.

Spot and Avoid Government Impersonator Scams

A government impersonator scam often starts with a call, email, or text message from someone who says they’re with a government agency. They might give you their “employee ID number” to sound official. And they might have information about you, like your name or home address.

They often say they work for the Social Security Administration, the IRS, or Medicare — but sometimes they give you fake agency names, like the non-existent National Sweepstakes Bureau. They’ll also give you some reason why you need to send money or give them your personal information immediately. If you get a call like this, hang up the phone. It’s a scammer.

Because government agencies won’t call, email, or text you and ask for money or personal information. Only a scammer will do that.

 How to avoid the scam

  • Don’t wire money, send cash, or use gift cards or cryptocurrency to pay someone who says they’re with the government. Scammers ask you to pay these ways because it’s hard to track that money, and almost impossible to get it back. They’ll take your money and disappear.
  • Don’t give your financial or other personal information to someone who calls, texts, or emails and says they’re with the government. If you think a call or message could be real, stop. Hang up the phone and call the government agency directly at a number you know is correct.
  • Don’t trust your caller ID. Your caller ID might show the government agency’s real phone number or even say “Social Security Administration,” for example. But caller ID can be faked. It could be anyone calling from anywhere in the world.
  • Don’t click on links in unexpected emails or text messages. Scammers send emails and text messages that look like they’re from a government agency, but are designed to steal your money and your personal information. Don’t click on any link, and don’t pass it on to others. Simply delete the message.

Social Security Administration Impersonator Scam

The scam: You get a call, email, text message, or a direct message on social media saying it’s from the Social Security Administration and that your Social Security benefits will end or your Social Security number will be suspended unless you pay immediately. They’ll say that you have to pay with gift cards, a wire transfer, cryptocurrency, or by mailing cash. They may even threaten you, saying you’ll be arrested if you don’t pay. But it’s not the Social Security Administration calling. Your benefits won’t be suspended, and you don’t owe anything. It’s a scammer trying to get your money, or get your personal information to steal your identity.

What to know:

  • The real Social Security Administration won’t threaten you or suspend your Social Security number.
  • The real Social Security Administration won’t call, email, send text messages, or send direct messages on social media asking for payment. And no one from any government agency will ever demand that you wire money, pay with gift cards, pay with cryptocurrency, or send cash. That call, email, text message, or direct message is a scam.

What to do:

  • If you get an unexpected call from someone claiming to be the Social Security Administration, hang up. Chances are it’s a scammer calling you. Don’t call back the number the caller gives you, and don’t use the one that shows up on your caller ID. If the call is a robocall, don’t press any numbers. Pressing numbers could lead to more calls.
  • Ignore calls, emails, text messages, and direct messages that claim to come from the Social Security Administration and ask you to pay or confirm your Social Security number or other information. The real agency will never call, email, text, or send direct messages on social media to demand money or information.
  • If you need to talk to the Social Security Administration, call your local office directly. Find the number on the agency’s website.
  • See the Social Security Administration’s advice on what to do if you get a call from someone claiming there’s a problem with your Social Security number or account. And report these calls to the agency’s Office of the Inspector General.
  • If you gave your personal information to a scammer, go to IdentityTheft.gov for steps you can take to protect your identity.

Watch and share this video to help others avoid Social Security Administration impersonator scams.

IRS Impersonator Scam

The scam: The caller says they’re from the IRS and you owe taxes. They claim you have to pay immediately. The caller might threaten you, saying the local police will arrest or deport you if you don’t pay right away. They may also say your driver’s license will be revoked.

The caller may have some information about you, including your Social Security number or Federal Tax ID number. They want to make you think it really is the IRS calling you. But it’s not the IRS. If you get a call like this, you can be sure it’s a scam.

While most of these scams happen by phone, it’s also important to know that the IRS will never email, text you, or send you a direct message on social media with threats or demands to pay.

What to know:

  • The IRS will not call you about your taxes unexpectedly. If you owe taxes, the IRS will contact you by mail.
  • The IRS now has private debt collectors who might call you, but only after you’ve gotten two letters in the mail about your debt: one from the IRS, followed by one from the debt collector.
  • A private debt collector working on behalf of the IRS will never ask you to pay over the phone. The IRS has guidance on private debt collection and answers to frequently asked questions.
  • The IRS and its debt collectors won’t demand that you wire money, pay with gift cards, pay with cryptocurrency, or send cash.
  • Neither the IRS nor its debt collectors will threaten to arrest you.

What to do:

  • If you get a call from someone claiming to work for the IRS, and you haven’t gotten notification in the mail about your account being placed for collection, hang up the phone. It’s a scammer calling you. Don’t call back on the number the caller gives you, and don’t use the one that shows up on your caller ID. Instead, view your tax account information online to make sure you don’t owe money, or call the IRS at 800-829-1040.
  • If the call is a robocall, don’t press any numbers. Pressing numbers could lead to more calls. If you get an email, text message, or direct message on social media, don’t click on any links. Scammers design these links to steal your financial and personal information.
  • See the IRS consumer alerts for more advice, and report IRS scammers to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at tigta.gov.
  • If you gave your personal information to a scammer, go to IdentityTheft.gov for steps you can take to protect your identity.

Watch and share this video to help others avoid IRS impersonator scams.

Medicare Impersonator Scam

The scam: You may get a call, email, text message, or direct message on social media asking for your Medicare number to get a new Medicare card. Or they might ask for your bank account or credit card number to pay for a new card. That’s a scammer calling. Medicare sends its cards to you for free, without you having to do or pay anything.

In another variation of the scam, the caller says they need your Medicare number for a medical equipment claim that you don’t remember making. That’s also a scam. Medicare impersonators want to steal your Medicare number to claim benefits for themselves.

What to know:

  • A real government agency won’t contact you to ask for your Medicare number or other personal information, unless you’ve called 1-800-MEDICARE first and left a message.
  • A real government agency won’t call, email, text, or send you a direct message on social media to sell you anything or ask you to pay to get your Medicare card.

What to do:

  • If you get an unexpected call, email, text message, or direct message on social media from someone claiming to be affiliated with Medicare, do not answer. Chances are that’s a scammer. Don’t call them back at the number they give you, and don’t use the number that shows up on your caller ID. If it’s a robocall, don’t press any numbers. Pressing numbers could lead to more calls. If you get an email or text message, don’t click on any links. Scammers design these links to steal your financial and personal information.
  • Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) for questions about your benefits, your card, your Medicare number, or to report anything suspicious.
  • Learn more about Medicare fraud at medicare.gov.
  • If you gave your personal information to a scammer, go to IdentityTheft.gov for steps you can take to protect your identity.

Watch this video to see how others have handled calls from Medicare impersonators. 

Other Government Impersonators

Here are other examples of government impersonator scams:

  • Scammers impersonate “the national consumer protection agency.” They might say they’re from the non-existent National Sweepstakes Bureau, or another made-up agency. If you’re in doubt, check out the list of real federal agencies at usa.gov.
  • Scammers pretend to be from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). They may say that you won a federally supervised lottery or sweepstakes, but you have to pay taxes or a fee to get your money. Or they pretend they’re the “Refund Department” and say they have money for you, and ask for your bank account. These are all scams. The real FTC will never contact you and ask for money or for information like your Social Security, bank account, or credit card number.
  • Scammers impersonate your local sheriff’s office or a court official. They say there’s a warrant for your arrest and you’ll go to jail unless you pay now. They may say they’re calling from the local court and you have to pay a penalty for missing jury duty. This is most likely a scam. But if you’re worried, look up the real number for the government agency or office the caller mentioned. Then contact them directly to get the real story.
  • Scammers impersonate representatives of immigration authorities. They say they’re calling from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) or another agency, there’s a problem with an immigration application or petition, and you have to pay them to solve that issue. This is a scam. If you’re concerned, contact USCIS directly. See also Avoid Immigration Scams and Get Real Help.

Report Government Impersonators

If you spot a government impersonator scam, report it to

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