Can you spot a government imposter?

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.

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