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You’ve gotten the calls: from Social Security. Or the IRS. Or Medicare. Or any number of other agencies. Except: as soon as the caller threatens you or demands that you pay them with a gift card or by wiring money, you know. It’s a scam. Even if caller ID tells you otherwise – that’s not the government calling.

The FTC’s latest Data Spotlight shows the surge in reports about government imposters. You know about the Social Security Administration (SSA) imposters who claim that your Social Security number has been linked to “criminal activity” and ask you to provide some information or money. (That’s a lie. The real SSA doesn’t work that way.) But those scammers are not alone: people are still telling the FTC that they’re getting calls from – and losing money to – scammers pretending to be the IRS, Medicare, a government grants group, or cops and the FBI.

Want to know more? Now there’s – dare we say – an awesome way for you to find out. And even create your own handout. You see the graphic here, but if you go to the dynamic, interactive version of the graphic, you can create a version that focuses on the time period or scam you’re most interested in.

Exploring the data can tell you, for example, that this year’s median losses to law enforcement imposters are the highest of all imposter scams (a whopping $3,000), and that 20% of the people who reported those scams told us they lost money. Those calls work because they’re scary. But now you can stay on top of the latest as data is updated every quarter. Or go back 5 years and see how things have changed.

And, of course, there are tips on how to spot government imposters scams. So if you want to share the handout you created with a few clicks, you’ll be able to tell people about not just the scope of the problem, but help them know what to do when they get the next call from the – ahem – government.

 

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228 Comments


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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
  • We won’t post comments that include vulgar messages, personal attacks by name, or offensive terms that target specific people or groups.
  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

Joe from Florida
July 01, 2019
I find it hard to believe that people are not understanding that NO agency would tell you to get gift cards to pay an alleged amount due. For the IRS, why won't they just say hold on, where is the nearest IRS Office and I will come over to discuss this "problem." Of course right there they would try to scare you more but you should know you are being scammed.
Linda
August 08, 2019

In reply to by Joe from Florida

Believe it Joe. Two times scammers almost got me. They come off believable. When I was going to school to get my Masters, I was awarded a $9000.00 grant for student loans. Several days later, I got a call indicating some branch of the govt provides a select few a $9000 grant (something you don't pay back) for students, doing well, have no criminal background, etc. and based on my registration and their investigation, I was one of the chosen people. I called the police who put me in touch with the right people. Fast forward. Now I am 62 years old, I just filed for social security benefits 7/23/19, four days later on 7/27/19 I have been receiving calls daily (today I received four) indicating my SS card has been suspended due to suspicious activity, etc. SS says it was just coincidental it started after I filed for SS. I called and filed the proper reports. But...it's not to say, it scared me and I had to know how to hunt it down and get it stopped (the best I can anyway). However my 82 YO mother... a victim waiting to be taken. If it's a doctor, or anyone portraying themselves as someone in authority, from the government, social security, medicare, etc., she is very gullible, naive and tolerating and accepts their word as gold. Not sure if it's primarily a generational thing or what (believe what your told and don't ask questions) or not; however scamming has gotten very high tech, and if your not real techy or elderly, I believe these people are the most vulnerable. My real concern is that both times I was prayed on...were times I just filed something with the government (e.g. a federal student loan for $9000 and for social security benefits). We just need to keep educating one another on how to protect ourselves. Best of luck to us all. Here are some of the numbers (although probably fake) calling posing as social security staff that have suspended your card and/or any future benefits: 833-319-4991, 956-984-5247, 956-821-6488, 956-835-3979, 956-806-7490. One of these numbers was actually traceable. To me, scams can be very believable to certain people...we don't know everyone's situ as to why or how they got caught up in it (e.g. aging process, dementia, offer fits most recent situ someone just went through like me...). Let's just keep educating one another on how to protect ourselves and loved ones against the scamming. Thank you
NoNameMatters
October 05, 2019

In reply to by Linda

I, too, began receiving scam calls from robodialed calls claiming to be from the Social Security Disability office a mere 6 days after I applied for SSDI benefits. Someone on the inside is collecting and selling our phone and SSN to scammers.
Rick
April 16, 2021

In reply to by Joe from Florida

Why are these people not prosecuted? Why are they not in jail?
uwm12g
July 01, 2019
Thank you for sending this information. I received several of these call about me winning a grant and I hung up. However, my caller ID stated that the call was from Senator Sessions and the US Government. Thankfully, I subscribe to your email and am aware of how this all works. Thanks again.
JM_in_VA
July 03, 2019

In reply to by uwm12g

Senator Sessions hasn't been a senator for a few years now, but I'm not surprised at these criminals using a household name that the general public might recognize! If you don't know the caller personally, don't answer and just let the call go to voicemail. DO NOT return calls to anyone who leaves a message from a government agency. Anything official will be mailed to your home (IRS audit, social security or Medicare notifications, unpaid fines, etc.).
AnnoyedBethesda
July 01, 2019
I received a call from this number 301-985-8820 which came up on caller ID as Dept of State. It was a supposed duct cleaning company. I was shocked that they could finagle the caller ID to say it was State and therefore we answered the call. I hope someone will check this company out. Thanks.
Ken
July 01, 2019

In reply to by AnnoyedBethesda

Keep up to date by reading these FTC bulletins. You will learn that numbers reported by Caller ID are completely untrustworthy. Therefore, no one can check out a company given only a bogus phone number.
ceotmayo @ FRA…
July 10, 2019
DIDN'T GIT TELE CALLS>> GOT OFFICIAL LETTERS FROM BOTH AT MY HOME ADDRESS. [ I D FRAUD] BOUGHT MY ADDRESS ON THE INTERNET>>SCAMMER
Jo S
July 01, 2019
I just received ANOTHER call from supposedly social Security department....the call came from 213-212-3674...if you have the number why can't these people be prosecuted??? It should be traceable!!!
ShariYS
July 02, 2019

In reply to by Jo S

Because, unfortunately, caller ID can be spoofed. The call probably did NOT originate from the number on the caller ID.
Justice
July 19, 2019

In reply to by ShariYS

If the NSA can back trace all phone calls, why can't they trace back robo scam calls to their origin? Selective tracing? This can and should be addressed by the Government, too many people are being victimized by these scams, especially the elderly.
Figmo6673
July 01, 2019
I was called not long ago by someone claiming to be representing some law enforcement group & asked for money. When I asked the caller to repeat the name of the organization so I could write it down—the call was disconnected.
rockhill
July 01, 2019
We're losing the internet! I may receive multiple fraudulent calls or web messages daily Some with foreign accents. Some posting origins from well known firms. Some offering refunds or false reenrollment in a service. Most are seeking access to computer controls.
Pollyanna123
July 01, 2019
I received a call from someone saying they are from social security I did not ansewer because I know social security don't call you unless u call them and request a call back I'm sorry I deleted the number if I get a call again I will save the number and report it.
vinnie
July 01, 2019

In reply to by Pollyanna123

reporting the number does little or nothing - it is a fake number like the caller ID is spoofed. THey can change the number to anything they want. You can block it, and they will change it and still call you. best not to answer.
NCSOLDLADY
September 26, 2019

In reply to by Pollyanna123

I have received several calls supposedly from SS-it says "there has been fraudulent activity on my social, press 1 for an officer". I don't answer any calls that I don't recognize the number, if someone legit is calling they leave a message & I can return call if appropriate. The number that is sending this message about social activity is 202-442-1146
GYPSY
July 01, 2019
I received a call and responded to the message they left on my voice mail.... I played along with it and asked them the correct spelling of their name, their agent number. Gave them a phony name and SS# 555-55-5555 and they proceeded to lookup the number and came back on the line to ask for verification. I gave it to them again and they checked it again. They said that something must be wrong with the name or the number. I told them that I knew they were trying to obtain confidential information and that I was calling the authorities to report their actions and the phone number. They promptly hung up.
GR in Florida
July 01, 2019
Excellent to have...ALSO, now Supposed Verizon & other cell phone providers are calling with scams about your phone being locked A d needing to give sensitive information to "unlock your phone". It's another good scam. They're really getting clever. But I appreciate this one just for the informational purposes. I shall pass this on for sure...
gary
July 01, 2019
I want to know how many of these crooks you've caught and put away! WHEN will you take some positive action against them and why aren't the phone companies helping you?
Hess
October 30, 2019

In reply to by gary

Unfortunately many of the scams are from overseas and routed through state side and even local numbers. Unfortunately this makes it hard to both stop them and to prosecute them. I have though heard of state side scammers getting cought and charged.
ESchwartz
July 01, 2019
This is great information. The one call I got from someone claiming to be the government claimed they were from the SSA. They were talking about my application for benefits. I told them I was already on SSD and then hung up.
AnnoyedTX
July 01, 2019
I was contacted about a grant and that I was on the list to receive funds for compensation. They fooled me by using a friend's profile picture from Facebook and posing as them, communicating via messenger. I really thought it was my friend. Told me she had received money and that I should contact this person via text to receive mine. I was foolish enough to believe it was my friend. Fortunately, I didn't lose any money and didn't give them too much info, but they still got some common info, e.g. address, full name, phone number and such. When they said I needed to pay fees and taxes on the funds I was to receive, that's when I realized it must be a scam. I contacted my friend via telephone and verified that it wasn't her communicating with me after all. Rrrrrrr
Givinggirl
July 13, 2019

In reply to by AnnoyedTX

I too annoyed Texas.went thru the same identical scam.Only I lost money thru a amazon card.
alicen
July 17, 2019

In reply to by AnnoyedTX

I too was following along because a friends picture on Messenger led me to believe I was speaking with her. when the gift cards came into play I stopped communicating, however they got a lot of personal info as well as a photo. What can be done to stop this?
Renelm
July 29, 2019

In reply to by AnnoyedTX

These very same people got my mom, only I told her it was a scam. She refused to listen to me. She gave them her fb login and they completely took over her fb to scam all her friends. Luckily I was able to contact everyone to stop them.
Related surprise
August 19, 2019

In reply to by AnnoyedTX

I received text thru messenger from a relative. The text started with the general how you doing. I thought I was speaking with my relative. Then they asked if I heard about GGF. Some Grant to help families, for housing, medical bills, credit debt, business endeavors etc. They told me that they received a Money Grant for 100,000 and I could too. They sent me the link to apply for the grant which led to another person on FB who acted as the agent for the Grant. I was already suspicious even though my relative turned me on to the grant. I know that if it seems to good to be true it's probably not. With my name address and phone number they found me eligible for eighty thousand dollars. But then asked me to pay for the documents and processing fees. The funny part, " go to the market and buy 3 hundred in Amazon cards". I already new before this point that it was a scam. I wanted to know how and where they wanted me to send the money. They told me when I get the cards let them know and wait for further instructions. Using my relatives FB profile had me for a second but I asked my relative to call me. The answer to that was, "I have a problem with my ears that's why I'm texting.
Too good to be…
August 29, 2019

In reply to by AnnoyedTX

I got an email like yours from facebook as well, posing to be a friend who got a grant by simply texting a number out of Sacremento, CA. I got suspicious because, one normally needs to fill out paperwork and apply for a grant. Also they wanted my mother's maiden name. I looked up the number for the Federal Trade commission and verified that this was a scam. Fortunately they only got my name. I got several harrassing texts over the next few days, and deleted them without replying as advised by the FTC representative.
LK101
September 05, 2019

In reply to by AnnoyedTX

Same thing happened to me, but, they didn't get any info from me. I was told to contact, via text, a government agent. When I asked what agency she was with, the only response was "Federal Government". I stopped the process at this point.
Mom3
September 18, 2019

In reply to by AnnoyedTX

I had the same thing happen to me this past Monday but they didn't ask for any money. I gave them the same info you did but when they told me that I had been qualified for a blow your mind amount of grant money, I knew something wasn't right. I contacted my friend on Messenger and asked her if she had sent me the message and she said NO. I then reported the Messenger break into her account to Messenger and I also reported it to FTC, with all the details of the conversation. I never thought this would happen to me but I feel different now.
AngryascanbeCA
September 26, 2019

In reply to by AnnoyedTX

I just got caught up in the same scam as the AnnoyedTX. I received a text from a friend of mine through Facebook Messenger. She told me that she and another friend had just received a grant from the Government for $50,000 each. She knew about my health issues and said that she would send me the number to text this claiming agent. I asked a few questions and all she said was to follow his lead and he would tell me what to do. So I did I gave them all the information they asked for, I also got suspicious when they sent me a list stating that I needed to pay for the taxes and for personal delivery. I could choose how much I wanted to receive. That amount would determine the cost I needed to pay to them. I said I did not have that amount to send to them right now I would send it later. They said they would wait but I needed to hurry up. I decided I needed to see what new scams might be out there and then I found this one. I thought I had them all figured out. They were supposed to be from The Lyons Club. They pick on the old and low-income people with an urgent need. Horrible! and Cruel!!
Dosarahcrlndn'…
August 27, 2020

In reply to by AnnoyedTX

I was talked into this I fell for it and sent them money I never heard from them after they got the money. Mine was on messager. I was told that the money was for tax purposes. I talked with my friend also but it was to late.
debbienewby1957
July 10, 2019
Thanks! For the e mail I got a call and gave them my SSN but I did everything I was suppose to do!No problems yet! But keep me updated!Thanks!
CrazyCat714
July 23, 2019

In reply to by Don't Suzie207…

Never give out any personal information! No legit company will ask you these personal things!
Don't use your…
July 18, 2019

In reply to by debbienewby1957

The same happened to me. I want to be sure I've done everything I'm supposed to do. But I'm not really sure of all that entails.
Don't use your…
July 18, 2019

In reply to by debbienewby1957

The same happened to me. I want to be sure I've done everything I'm supposed to do. But I'm not really sure of all that entails.
kopino
September 06, 2019

In reply to by debbienewby1957

so what all did u do after u gave your ssn? I mean in terms of trying to prevent them from using your ssn for fraud?
Rod C
July 01, 2019
Nearly every day, I get a c all from a woman claiming to be a "Medicare advocate"! Her schitk is that she'll forward me to Medicare; BUT, all they want is to "give" me Medicare approved back or knee brace! They claim that I've requested information! I HAVEN"T! Most calls are sent from my local area code. I've tried call blocking using my local telephone company to no avail! These type of calls need to stop!!!
Hazel Ke
July 05, 2019

In reply to by Rod C

Rod C, We get the exact same Robot caller claiming to be from Medicare, at least 4 or 5 times a day. We have tried everything. The call says to punch 9 to be placed on the do not call list. That is a hoax and does nothing. We have punched 1 to talk to the advocate (real person) and as soon as we ask to be taken off the list they hang up! What a nuisance. The number they call from shows our local area code and the ID number keeps changing.
Kiki
July 01, 2019
I once received a call (she left a message) from someone saying she was with the sheriff's department and I had not shown up for jury duty. I looked up the number and it was listed to an address in another town - not our local sheriff's department. I called back and left a message that I worked downtown and would be happy to meet her at the sheriff's department on my lunch hour the following day so we could straighten it all out. She never called back. Obviously she wasn't one of the smart ones who could change her caller ID information!
ShirlB
July 01, 2019
I now am getting them from Trump they use different names and the very same one I have been getting about debt. It would be wonderful not to be getting these all day long. I never answer them...ever. I never answer anything. It just things worse, if that is possible.
Cappy
July 01, 2019
Would be nice if there were a fake card number people could give the scammers that, when used, resulted in their phone being flagged and them being busted.
Stevendonna
July 01, 2019
I got a call from someone today claiming that he was the Social Security.
Amazed
July 09, 2019

In reply to by Stevendonna

I got three of those today about 30 min. apart claiming that my SS numbers was being recalled "for some reasons". To find out more I had to call them at some Calif. number. The woman even gave a name "This is agent ... " She gave the same name each time . I don't call back. If SS wants to talk to me about a problem, with all the scams by phone, I hope they will find another way.
mikebo
October 29, 2019

In reply to by Amazed

I received a call from New York 315-605-8027 they said they were calling from the treasury and said I was getting a 9000.00 free grant from the treasury , what a bunch of crap. I almost believed them until they wanted me to buy a gift card, that's when I hung up.
drfamosa
July 01, 2019
You've got a new voicemail from (646) 481-5953. Transcript: Reason you have received this phone call from our department is to inform you that we just suspend your social security number because we found some suspicious activity. So if you want to know about this case, just press one. Thank you. This call is from the Department of Social Security Administration. The reason you have received this phone call from our department is to inform you that we just suspend your social security number because we found some suspicious activity. So if you want to know about this case, just press one. Thank you.
Mary
July 19, 2019

In reply to by drfamosa

Yes I got scammed for $2100. The scammers are very persuasive. When I hung up... a police officer called me and stated that I need to cooperate or else they will arrest me. They persuaded me to by a target gift card and wants me to withdraw all my money and they will put it in a safeguard account. Good thing I called my husband and he deal with this. But too late they already scammed me. Good part is they are not successful to get all my money.