Can you spot a government imposter?

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Your caller ID says “FTC” or “IRS,” and the phone number has the “202” Washington, DC area code. You might even look the number up and see that it’s a real government phone number.

But the person calling isn’t really from the FTC, IRS, or any other agency. It’s a government imposter whose goal is to convince you to send money before you figure out it’s a scam. The big giveaway? The caller wants you to send money.

What imposters might tell you

A lot of imposters pretend they’re with the government to scare you into sending money. They say you owe taxes or some other unpaid debt, and, hoping you’ll panic, warn that you’re about to be arrested if you don’t pay up. Before you can investigate, you’re told to put the money on a prepaid debit card and tell them the number — something no government agency would ask you to do.

Other scammers promise you money — a big prize you need to claim. They say the FTC or some other agency is supervising the sweepstakes, and that the money will be released as soon as you pay for the shipping, taxes, or some other expense. But it’s all a fake. There is no prize and no money.

What you should know

  • Federal government agencies and employees don’t ask people to send money for prizes or unpaid loans. The FTC doesn’t supervise sweepstakes, and when the IRS contacts people about unpaid taxes, they usually do it by postal mail, not by phone.
  • Federal government agencies and employees also don’t ask people to wire money or use a prepaid debit card to pay for anything. Prepaid cards and money transfers are like sending cash — once it’s gone, you can’t get it back.
  • You can’t rely on caller ID. Scammers know how to rig it to show you the wrong information (aka “spoofing”). Scammers might have personal information about you before they call, so don’t take that as a sign they’re the real thing. If you’re not sure whether you’re dealing with the government, look up the official number of the agency. That way you know who you’re talking to.

Who you can tell

  • You can file a complaint with the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint under “Scams and Rip-offs” and then “Imposter Scams.” If it involves the IRS, add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
  • IRS imposter scams also can be reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) online or at 800-366-4484. If you think you owe federal taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 or go to irs.gov.

Read Government Imposter Scams for more.

This post was updated on 12/21/15 with new instructions on how to file a complaint.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Comments

Interesting cool :-))

The information above "IRS imposter scams also can be reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) online or at 800-366-4484." Is inaccurate. You cannot call the 1-800 number and file a complaint. Please update the blog entry to provide where consumers may go to post scam details for you to follow-up.

800-366-4484 is the correct number for the TIGTA hotline. You can leave a voicemail and report your experience there. If the voicemail is full, you can file a complaint online

You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments in your complaint. Reporting the incident to both the FTC and TIGTA is helpful for law enforcement agencies.

And if you get another call claiming to be from the IRS, the best thing to do is hang up the phone immediately. The IRS will not call you to say you owe them money.

This is the truth, IRS contacts by mail and waits for you to call them.

Got one 2/26/15 from Larry Hold ( heavy indian accent ) left msg to call him at 914-341-8124. Said to be from US Treasury and my address was under investigation, Case#CF100122. I'm to call him ASAP. I reported it to TIGTA and of course did not call this loser back. BEWARE!!!

Same here an Indian sounding guy told me I was going to be arrested for tax evasion said he was from US Treasury dept. He said all my asserts are in the process of getting frozen and the local authorities have been notified. He said IRS had sent me several notices of form CP503 which is a real form they use. I explained to him that the IRS had not sent me a certified mail to let me know the situation. He proceeded to tell me my 401 k would be frozen as well if I did not pay immediately. At that point I knew it was a scam and I laughed at him called him and his mother some ugly names and hung up on him. The nerve of these foreign people trying to scam us. Beware the IRS does not call people by phone!

I had to google this coz i knew it was a scam. i called a 202 area code number back because my VM said i was under investigation for tax invasion which is BS. it was a bogus answering service with lots of echo claiming they were the IRS. They called me back. Indian man with heavy accent. He said this call was recorded and that i was under investigation. I told him i had never received any letters from the IRS or any government. He said they have sent several letters. I asked him to what address and he said he wouldn't disclose it to me until i speak to an agent... i told him i wouldnt speak to anymore agents and that i would not disclose any information... he paused and asked "are you kidding me maam?" i replied with "YUP" and hung up. Called me back and didn't pick up. The nerve of these people!! I know the IRS would never call you and they do everything by certified mail.

Oh my lord!! I just got the same thing. VM message said the same thing, but the area code was 347. About gave me a heart attack. Figured it was a scam, but glad I saw this post.

I got one today from a 719 area code. I called them back and told them that they were being reported. They hung up on me. Same Indian accent as others mentioned. One male, one female.

I got one too just a moment ago :). 347 code.he was amercian guy with no accent at all. I don't usually answer unknown calls. but when I heard the voice msg I started worrying but I figured it would be a scap. Usually IRS or Federal government officials they send a mail or letters before contacting you.

Got same call from a Man with indian accent recived quite a few messages called back and was hasseled terrible!! Gave no info just a jerk was saying terrible things ! If he only knew who he called maybe he wouldnt have said I owe so much in un paid taxes !! I cut him off I keep my records so he could only fumble for a different excuse... I hung up and still am reciving messages to call . Shake my head .just insaine

+1 (713) 239-4311 And +1 (202) 241-8992 both IRS scams claiming I owe 2199. I had to pay with a Green dot money card from CVS. Scam. Indian accents. Voice recording with a women named Kelly Smith who said I was to be arrested within the following 30 Minutes of the call.

I just had a very similar thing happen to me. Phone call, green dot money card from cvs or walgreen's. spanish or indian accents. no threats or claims that I owed money. said i got a government grant but had to send money to get the grant money. so many red flags. i knew it was a scam.

Got the same call today in Alabama...realized it was a scam right away. Could hear children playing in the background. Checked with local police and was told the call was from Jamaica (202-239-8429)

Same call for me today in Florida from 202.214.7124.
Told me I had to call Chris Wayne at 293-719-1459 with my approval ID number to get the money sent to me.

I just got one of these calls today 12-10-14. Very upsetting because I had not heard of this scam. Claimed to be IRS auditor and that I had a warrant out for my arrest. Thankfully, I hung up before she got any more information but she knew my husband's name, which is very scary.

I just got a call this morning 12/19/14, voicemail said call 202-470-6797, it's the IRS and they are filing a lawsuit against me. The caller ID said it was an British Columbia, CN call. I called back, they knew my name, I knew it was a scam from the start, I should've tried to get more info from them for the authorities. Any rate, as soon as I asked in a loud voice WHY THE IRS IS CONTACTING ME VIA THE TELEPHONE they hung up. I called back to inquire again, this time he called me a filthy word about my mother, that set me off. I called back several times, but no answer. Called from a different landline and they answered. I gave it to them with both barrels. I let them know exactly what I thought of them and how they are losers preying on seniors and the like. I also told them to get a real job, among other profane laden comments. Seniors PLEASE do not get fooled by these scammer/losers. I reported this to the IRS complaint/scam website

Dear publicAnimal#9---I just want to say a few words about your story. BRAVO!!!!!! Also THANK YOU! I just recieved the same horrible phone call and it sent my head in a tizzy for about 30 minutes. I called them back after about 5 minutes and it just went straight to a British lady's voicemail. My caller id just said "UNKNOWN". Once I calmed down and started to think about all the odd clues in this voicemail left on my phone I thankfully decided to check here :) Thank you for your reassuring story and for all the other similar stories on this page. You've made my day. Thank you :)

Same thing call jacob white get approved send 219 to claim ur 6700 money from the government u dont pay back. They call my from florida but the area 202 n washington 202 lol CJ major. They picked the wrong one to scam...

I didn't catch his name but claiming I won a grant for $10,000 and to call 206-807-1730 He even gave me a confirmation # and I was to call them as soon as I hung up. I call the FTC instead as this imposter is claiming to be from the US Treasury. I feel that this is a crime against our Government as well as myself so PLEASE beware. They are out to get all of us Seniors because they think we are all stupid.

I got a call today from a guy who said I was getting a government grant for $6700 and I could either have it sent to my bank account or put on a gift card or go to Walmart to pick it up. He said I have to call this number 202-621-0930 to talk to Steffie Willard to give her the reference number he gave me which is RC205 to confirm my real identity before I can go to Walmart to pick up the money. Of course I knew it was a scam so that is why I chose Walmart instead of a bank account or gift card. I had no intention of calling that number or going to Walmart to pick up any money that I know is a scam. So it is a scam to tell you that the government is giving out chosen people to receive money.

Thank you for sharing your experiences. It's important to submit a formal complaint because investigators from all over the country access the FTC's database and these complaints could help in their investigations.Please go to ftc.gov/complaint to report this.

That is exactly happened with me too, so I played the game with them to see what they want, I found out they want $ 200 processing fees.

Commenting on this can you call me ASAP my name is Vince . I have Gone through a situation and after reading this post I'm wondering if you could give me the whole story because the only reason this, I because of the name Kelly Smith so please give me a call you can even block your number I don't care but I would like to talk to you

If this has hapned to you, you can file a consumer complaint with the FTC online, or call 1-888-FTC-HELP.

Just had a man call saying he was a federal agent with us postal service inspection wanted me to return call one number. Shows on I'd but left different number on answering machine

Same thing happened to me. They knew my husbands name and said we owed money to the IRS, this message was left on our home phone number, which we NEVER use. I returned the call to 585-444-7131 he said we owed 3850.00 immediately. I asked for his Supervisor, and for someone who speaks better English, he argued with me and hung up. LOSER,SCUM

Its a scam I recived same call Stressed me out n finally relized I pay my taxes and this is bs. Those people suck and are the most dirty rotten people on earth :(

Just got a call from 877-374-0419 say " “The hand is extremely time sensitive and urgent as after audit we found that there was a fraud and misconduct on your tax which you are hiding from the federal government this needs to be rectified immediately so do return the call as soon as you receive the message the number is 877-374-0419 again 877-374-0419 thank you…” I have not called back but this got to be a scam what a mess . It was a computer voice just wanted people to know .

Please send me updates regarding this matter.

You can sign up to receive alerts, news releases and blog posts from the FTC at ftc.gov/stay-connected.

I will remember what I have learned on this site today,I'm a senior on a fixed income,I can't give money to no one,I only have enough money for food every month an CAT food.

I received this call twice, both times after 8 PM Eastern Time, well outside normal officer hours in Washington DC. The female voiced "warning" sounded computer generated.

Thanks for pointing out all the scammers. I try to remember them all. Easy though when someone asks for money or personal info - just say no.

202-506-9774 ..forgien accent repeatedly calling from IRS.....FIX THIS !!

I think it was a scam call. I was told the IRS is suing me. all letters were sent to my former address. but they didn't ask for money. Does IRS call if they don't receive any response from the letters?

amiavictim, IRS does not call, without sending notices out first

The IRS knows where your current address is if you have a job. If you don't work, then what taxes could you owe...in other words if you filed a return then they can find you. If you have a lease or rent they can find you. Trust me the IRS can always find you lol

206-512-1495 was the number of the scammer that called our home today. Also called himself Officer Melvin. Very heavy accent. Be aware! Thanks for this site.

This past week I've been receiving calls from the same officer Melvin, Indian accent. He leaves messages recited from a script totally stupid sounding. Warning me of my tax evasion and warrants for my arrest. Thank you all for posting

called me as well same number and it was officer melvin.
thanks for the heads up.

My husband received a call from a woman with a similar number 206-317-0141 and 567-890-9876. They claimed he won $8,000 from the Government.

Me too but mines was $7,000

Got a call from same # today saying u.s. government was just giving me 8700 minus 15% for transfer of money to Western union when I paid 149 to them first lady said she would stay on phone with me until I wired 149 then when they received my money they would sent 8700 minus their 15%

"IRS" calling from a DC number 202-241-0089. Indian accent. Very pushy. Lots of threats.

I received the same kind of call from 202-241-8586 (also Indian accent) with the threats about do not ignore this call, etc. But to top it off, today my brother called me and apparently they called him telling him I have a lawsuit with the IRS and trying to get information from him as to my personal information. Unbelievable!

202-506-970 Just got this call today, was asked to tell them the year I was married and when I said that if you are the IRS you have my tax returns so you should know this, that is why the scammer started to yell at me and told me the police are coming to my house to arrest me and that I should go quietly and not to put up a fight. I have filed a complaint with the FTC as well. This has got to stop, there are elderly and mentally challenged people that answer the phone and might be taken advantage of. Hope they get caught soon.

I am not elderly or mentally challenged and I fell for this miserable scam. These cruel, devious people are experts at conning people. My dad recently passed away so I wasn't thinking straight and they almost got me. When she said I had to remain in constant contact with her while I went to the bank, I started to realize I was being scammed.

i have been a victim of identity theft twice in my life. I believe the 2nd time (recently 2014) said he was an attorney calling from a company that I do not do business with but stated that I had a warrant out for my arrest. Oddly enough he had all of my personal information down to my social security @ that I had lost and reported it immediateley to social security administration, and the credit bureaus. I was lucky enough that I had placed a fraud alert the 1st time around.

210-280-8487 calls me about the IRS suing me. There have been a few calls, usually from a 201 area.

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