The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued a warning about an increase in phone calls spoofing the Bureau’s phone number.
The scammers will either spoof or fake the FBI headquarters number so it appears the call is coming from the FBI or the recipient’s caller ID.
In the scam, fraudulent callers pose as FBI agents, informing the victim that their Social Security number (SSN) has been suspended. To add authenticity, the scammer will provide a name and badge number, both of which are fake.
Victims are then told that in order to get their SSN reinstated, they must purchase gift card(s) and put money on it, to which they should call the scammer back and provide them with the gift card number.
Scammers are then able to purchase goods or fund a bank account by using the gift card code.
“These calls are fraudulent; any legitimate law enforcement officer will not demand cash or gift cards from a member of the public,” warns the FBI.
The FBI defines this type of scam as “government impersonation fraud” due to scammers posing as government officials in order to obtain money from victims.
According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), last year they received 13,873 reports of government impersonation scams, with losses totalling more than $124 million.
“The criminals often threaten to extort victims with physical or financial harm to obtain personally identifiable information. Scammers are becoming more sophisticated and organized in their approach, are technologically savvy, and often target young persons and the elderly.”
To avoid falling victim to such a scam, it is advised not to send money or gift cards to anybody you do not know personally. In addition, it is recommended not to give out personal information including SSNs, banking information and other personally identifiable information over the phone to unknown individuals.
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