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You get a call, email, or text message from someone who says they’re from the Social Security Administration or Medicare. They say something alarming — like your Social Security number has been suspended. Or maybe you’ll miss out on a government benefit. To fix it, they say you must pay, give them your personal information, or put your money on gift cards and read them the PIN numbers.

The caller may know some of your Social Security number. And your caller ID might show a Washington, DC area code. But is it really the government calling?

No. The government doesn’t call people out of the blue with threats or promises of money. Caller IDs can be faked, so if you’re not sure, contact the agency at a phone number you know to be true (not the one they called you from).

Here’s what to do:

  1. Stop. Don’t send money to anyone who calls, emails, or texts and says they’re with the government. Don’t send them cash or pay them with gift cards, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency. The government won’t demand payment that way — and you won’t get your money back. If you want to reach a government agency, find their contact information at USA.gov.

  1. Pass this information on to a friend. You may not have gotten one of these calls, emails, or texts, but chances are, you know someone who has.

Want to know more?

Sign up for Consumer Alerts at ftc.gov/ConsumerAlerts.