RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — There’s a new warning from the FBI about criminals pretending to be government officials. They are actually con artists who are trying to convince the would-be victims they are about to go to jail unless they pay up.
Imposter schemes aren’t new, but the FBI is warning about a resurgence of them in the last few weeks, with criminals pretending to be law enforcement or government officials.
These schemes have cost victims $2 billion between 2017 and 2022 according to the federal government.
“These criminals will often impersonate a government official or a large organization we trust —because it’s credibility,’’ said Alyssa Parker of the Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina.
Sometimes the scheme involves a phony arrest warrant claiming you missed jury duty. Other times the call is claiming they are from the IRS looking for unpaid taxes — or say they are a federal agent looking for you because you have defrauded social security.
There are many variations on the schemes, says the BBB, but they all have one thing in common — they want your money.
“Government agencies will reach out through postal mail, they’re unlikely to contact you by phone, email or text, especially if it’s unsolicited,” said Parker.
Recently, victims reported that criminals have emailed or texted supposed copies of their official credentials and badges.
It’s especially common with Social Security scams.
“The Social Security Administration will never text or email an official government identification,” said Parker. “If you get an email saying I promise I’m real — that’s a red flag.”
They’ll also suggest payment via a gift card or by a wire transfer through services like Cash App, Zelle or Venmo. Don’t do it because If you do that you won’t get your money back.
“Any unconventional payment is going to be something you want to take a step back from,” said Parker.
Victims of phone and internet scams can reach out to what’s known as IC3. It’s the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. You can file a complaint online from your phone or home computer.
If you’ve been victimized, the faster you file a complaint, the better chance the FBI has of catching them because these scammers frequently change their base of operation.
Those imposters also prefer high-pressure tactics — getting you to react as quickly as possible without thinking.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of one of their schemes, hang up and call the agency yourself at a number you’ve looked up so you can be reassured it’s just a scam.
Do not call back on a number provided by the supposed “agent.”
Those numbers can be faked and will ring back to the scammer or their associates.