I’ve said it until I’m blue in the face: no government agency will every initiate contact with you by text, call or email. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is concerned some of you aren’t getting the message.
Carol Kando-Pineda, attorney for the FTC’s Division of Consumer and Business Education, wrote and published a warning blog July 30. In it, Kando-Pineda warned that scammers are still posing either as federal law enforcement agents or as representatives of federal agencies.
She said the scammers will initiate a text, call or email saying there’s a warrant out for your arrest for missing jury duty …or the IRS is after you for back taxes…or you’re due a tax refund or some sort of prize. They all use the threat or pull of a government agency — in some cases, actual logos or images of those agencies — to get consumers to cough up money, credit card information or personal information to settle the issue. “These are all scams,” she wrote. “Scammers will try to make it seem legitimate. They might give you a badge number or even know information like the last four digits of your Social Security number. A Washington, D.C. area code on your caller ID also might seem convincing. But caller ID can be faked.”
As I have preached for as long as I’ve served as a consumer investigator: no federal, state or local government agency will ever initiate a text, call or email to you. Government agencies and their representatives will only contact you if you contacted them first. In the case of an arrest warrant or legal matter, a cop or prosecutor would never text, call or email you. The law enforcement agency would serve you with a subpoena or an arrest warrant, not give you a heads-up (and a head start) with an unsolicited text, call or email. Think about it!
When someone claiming to represent a government agency contacts you, here’s how the FTC suggested you should handle it:
Never send money — especially by gift card, cash reload card, or money transfer. No government agency will threaten you or demand payment this way.
Don’t give out your personal or financial information to anyone who calls, texts or emails.
If you sent money to a government imposter, contact the company you used to send the money (gift card company, cash reload card company, or wire transfer service) and tell them it was a fraudulent transaction. Ask to have the transaction reversed if possible.