A government impersonation scam often starts with a call, email, text, or social media message from someone who says they’re with a government agency. They might give you their “employee ID number” to sound official. And they might have information about you, like your name or home address.
They often say they work for the FTC, Social Security Administration, IRS, or Medicare — but sometimes they give you fake agency names, like the non-existent National Sweepstakes Bureau. They’ll also give you some reason why you need to send money or give them your personal information immediately. If you get a call or message like this, hang up or ignore it. It’s a scammer.
Government agencies will never call, email, text, or message you on social media to ask for money or personal information. Only a scammer will do that.
How to avoid the scam
- Don’t wire money or use gift cards, cryptocurrency, or a payment app to pay someone who says they’re with the government. Scammers insist you can only pay these ways because it’s hard to track that money, and just as hard to get it back. They’ll take your money and disappear.
- Don’t give your financial or personal information to someone who calls, texts, emails, or messages you on social media and says they’re with the government. If you think a call or message could be real, stop. Hang up the phone and call the government agency directly at a number you know is correct. If the call is a robocall, don’t press any numbers. Pressing numbers could lead to more calls.
- Don’t trust your caller ID. Your caller ID might show the government agency’s real phone number or name — like “Social Security Administration.” But caller ID can be faked. It could be anyone calling from anywhere in the world.
- Don’t click on links in unexpected emails, texts, or social media messages. Scammers send emails and messages that look like they’re from a government agency but are designed to steal your money and personal information. Don’t click on any link, and don’t pass it on to others. Just delete the message.
The scam: You get a call, email, text, or message on social media that says it’s from the FTC. It might even include the names of real people who work at the agency, like staff, contractors, or Commissioners. They might say you’ve won a federally supervised lottery or sweepstakes, but first have to pay taxes or a fee to get your winnings. Or they might pretend they’re the “Refund Department,” say they have money for you, and ask for your bank account number. These are all scams. The real FTC will never contact you and ask for money or information like your Social Security, bank account, or credit card number.
What to know:
- The FTC will never ask you for money, threaten to arrest you, or promise you a prize.
- Here’s how the real FTC might communicate with you:
- If you reported something to the FTC and provided an email address, you’ll get an email with advice about how to recover and protect yourself.
- If you’re getting a refund or payment from an FTC case, you’ll get it by check, prepaid debit card, or PayPal. The payment or claim form will tell you more about the case and why you’re getting money. To see a list of FTC cases that resulted in refunds, the name of the company sending payments, and a phone number to call with questions, go to ftc.gov/refunds.
What to do:
- If someone says they’re from the FTC and offers you a prize, threatens you, or demands money, they’re a scammer. Don’t pay them or give them any personal information. Hang up, or delete the message.
Watch and share this video to help others avoid FTC impersonation scams.
The scam: You get a call, email, text, or message on social media that says it’s from the Social Security Administration. They say your Social Security benefits will end, or your Social Security number will be suspended, unless you pay immediately. They insist the only way you can fix the problem is to pay with gift cards, a wire transfer, cryptocurrency, or a payment app. They may even threaten that you’ll be arrested if you don’t pay. But it’s not the Social Security Administration calling. Your benefits won’t be suspended, and you don’t owe anything. It’s a scammer trying to get your money or personal information to steal your identity.
What to know:
- The real Social Security Administration won’t threaten you or suspend your Social Security number.
- The real Social Security Administration won’t call, email, text, or message you on social media and ask you to pay.
- No government agency will demand you wire money or pay with gift cards, cryptocurrency, or a payment app.
What to do:
- Ignore calls, emails, texts, and messages on social media that claim to come from the Social Security Administration and ask you to pay, confirm your Social Security number, or give other information. The real agency will never call, email, text, or message you on social media to demand money or information.
- Call your local office directly if you need to talk to the Social Security Administration. Find the number on the agency’s website.
- See the Social Security Administration’s advice on what to do if you get a call from someone who claims there’s a problem with your Social Security number or account. And report these calls to the agency’s Office of the Inspector General.
Watch and share this video to help others avoid Social Security Administration impersonation scams.
The scam: The caller says they’re from the IRS and you owe taxes you have to pay immediately. They might threaten that you’ll be arrested or deported if you don’t pay right away. Or that your driver’s license will be revoked. The caller may have some information about you, including your Social Security number or Federal Tax ID number. Scammers want to make you think it’s really the IRS calling you. But it’s not the IRS — it’s a scam.
What to know:
- The IRS will never email, text, or message you on social media with threats or demands that you pay. And the IRS will not call you about your taxes unless you set up an appointment. If you owe taxes, the IRS will contact you by mail.
- The IRS does have private debt collectors who might call you, but only after you’ve gotten two letters in the mail about your debt: one from the IRS, followed by one from the debt collector.
- A private debt collector working on behalf of the IRS will never ask you to pay over the phone. The IRS has guidance on private debt collection and answers to frequently asked questions.
- The IRS and its debt collectors won’t demand that you wire money or pay with gift cards, cryptocurrency, or a payment app.
- Neither the IRS nor its debt collectors will threaten to arrest you.
What to do:
- If you get an unexpected call from someone claiming to work for the IRS, and you haven’t gotten notification in the mail about your account being placed for collection, hang up. It’s a scammer calling you. Don’t call back the number the caller gave you, or the one on your caller ID. Instead, view your tax account information online to make sure you don’t owe money, or call the IRS at 800-829-1040.
- See IRS consumer alerts for more advice, and report IRS scammers to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at tigta.gov.
Watch and share this video to help others avoid IRS impersonation scams.
The scam: You get a call, email, text, or message on social media from someone saying they work for Medicare. They ask for your Medicare, bank account, or credit card numbers for your “new” Medicare card. But it’s a scam — Medicare sends its cards to you automatically for free. You never have to do or pay anything.
In another variation of the scam, the caller says they need your Medicare number for a medical equipment claim that you don’t remember making. That’s also a scam. Medicare impersonators want to steal your Medicare number and file fraudulent claims for benefits.
What to know:
- Real government agencies won’t contact you to ask for your Medicare number or other personal information, unless you’ve called 1-800-MEDICARE first and left a message.
- Medicare won’t call, email, text, or message you on social media to sell you anything or tell you to pay for your Medicare card.
What to do:
- If you get an unexpected call, email, text, or message on social media from someone claiming to be affiliated with Medicare, don’t respond. That’s a scammer. Don’t call back the number they give you, and don’t use the number on your caller ID or in the message.
- Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) for questions about your benefits, Medicare number, or Medicare card, or to report anything suspicious.
- Learn more about Medicare fraud at medicare.gov.
Watch this video to see how others have handled calls from Medicare impersonators.
Here are some other examples of government impersonation scams:
- Scammers impersonate “the national consumer protection agency.” They might say they’re from the non-existent National Sweepstakes Bureau or another made-up agency. If you’re in doubt, check out the list of real federal agencies at usa.gov.
- Scammers impersonate your local sheriff’s office or a court official. They might say there’s a warrant out for your arrest and that you’ll go to jail if you don’t pay immediately. Or that they’re from the local court and you need to pay a penalty for missing jury duty. This is most likely a scam. But if you’re worried, look up the real number for the government agency or office the caller mentioned. Then contact them directly to get the real story.
- Scammers impersonate representatives of immigration authorities. They might say they’re calling from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) or another agency, there’s a problem with an immigration application or petition, and you have to pay them to solve that issue. This is a scam. If you’re concerned, contact USCIS directly. Also read Avoid Immigration Scams and Get Real Help.
If you spot a government impersonation scam, report it to
And if you gave your personal information to a scammer, go to IdentityTheft.gov for steps you can take to protect your identity.