Phone and electronic message scams seeking to pry money or personal information from victims by imitating government agencies continue to grow even amid repeated warnings about them, the FTC has said, citing a record 46,600 complaints it received in May.
“Since 2014, consumers have filed nearly 1.3 million reports about these cons, far more than any other type of fraud,” it said, adding that while only 6 percent of those who report what it calls a “government imposter scam” say they lost money, among those who did the median amount was nearly $1,000.
Scammers most commonly falsely claim to be from the SSA or IRS and in many cases use spoofing technology to make it appear that calls are coming from official agency phone lines; email scams commonly use addresses similar to those of official accounts.
Scams involving the SSA commonly seek to gain Social Security numbers by claiming that there is some problem with the number while those involving the IRS commonly claim back taxes are owed; more recent similar scams involving the DHS use the threat of enforcement against immigrants.
The FTC said that the public should “be suspicious if they receive a call out of the blue from someone claiming to be from a government agency.” Agencies being spoofed have put out repeated messages to the same effect, adding explanations of when they will call members of the public and stressing that they will never demand money on the spot.
The prevalence of such scams, and even the warnings from the imitated agencies, have raised concerns that members of the public will meanwhile become so skeptical about any dealings purportedly with the government that agencies will have greater trouble in their normal interactions with them.