Phone scammers pretending to be FBI agents to grab cash
By: Robert Foreman
Phone scams are nothing new and the criminals that perpetrate them are always looking for new ways to get money from unsuspecting people. However, the latest scam has definitely caught the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigations since it involves them. Scammers are spoofing the phone numbers from multiple FBI Field Offices in an effort to extort money from unsuspecting people. The scam is simple. The caller pretends that they are with the FBI and attempts to intimidate the person into making an overdue payment to the government. In some instances, the scammer will try to convince the person that there is a federal warrant for their arrest, which will magically disappear if they pay the scammer some money.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I had no idea that this scam was going on until I recently got a voicemail from this scammer. The beginning of the message was in the middle of a sentence that mentioned ‘a judge, grand jury or magistrate for a federal criminal offense’ and then stated that ‘this is the final attempt to reach you’ and then provided a callback number so that I could ‘resolve this situation immediately’. Naturally, I didn’t call back because my B.S. meter told me that something was shady. I immediately started to do a Google search for FBI phone scams and discovered that this has been happening for months,
Part of the reason why I didn’t bother to return the call was because I knew that I hadn’t committed a crime. Plus, I also knew that the FBI isn’t going to leave a friendly voicemail to resolve the matter if they believe that you committed a crime. They will just show up in full gear. However, there are a lot of people who won’t immediately come to the conclusion that I did and will become easy prey for the scammers. That is why it is important that people remain vigilant when it comes to both phone and Internet schemes. The criminals are counting on law-abiding citizens being afraid that they may have inadvertently done something wrong and they will use that vulnerability to their advantage.
According to the FBI’s website, the caller will often know the name, background and personal number of the intended victim. The victims may be told that their social security number has been compromised and linked to money laundering. They will also be told that their social security number has been used to open bank accounts and that the government would seize those accounts. The unsuspecting victims will then be told that they should transfer their money to protected bank accounts that have been set up by the government and that the funds will be returned when the situation is resolved. Failure to transfer the money could lead to a loss of those funds and possible arrest. The target of the scam is then informed that they should meet with a Social Security Administration Agent to receive a new SSN to open up a new bank account.
To avoid becoming a victim to the scammers, everyone should remember that the FBI does not randomly call private citizens to threaten arrest or ask for money. The FBI warns the public to be mindful of the personal information that they share online, including on social media sites. Criminals have multiple ways to obtain a victim’s name, phone numbers and other personal information, so people should be vigilant about how they dispense that information and to whom. That is why the FBI warns people to be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls and to never give money or personal information to people that you do not have personal ties to. Additionally, you should always be wary of those unknown callers who initiate contact with you and begin asking for money.
Additionally, the FBI warns people that before signing up for contests or email distribution lists that they should check to see that the business has a policy against sharing or selling your information to a third party. At the end of the day, scammers will count on people’s lack of knowledge, or trusting nature, in an attempt to take advantage of them. Never be afraid to hang up on an unknown caller, or avoid a voicemail from an unknown caller, if your instincts tell you that something doesn’t add up. I was born and raised in Paterson, New Jersey, so being on the lookout for shady people and scams is pretty much embedded in my DNA at this point.
The FBI advises anyone who is contacted by someone claiming to be with the FBI to verify the information with one of their local FBI Field Office. Information for the 56 FBI Field Offices can be found at www.fbi.gov. However, people should remember that when a unsolicited call does not feel right then trust your gut and either ignore it or take the necessary steps to verify whether it is legitimate or a scam. That is the best way to keep the scammers from being successful with their criminal activities.