Thursday, July 7, 2022

Fake Government Scams - Do Not Fall for Fraud

Most of us are afraid to simply hang up on someone who says they are a government official, especially if they insist they are contacting us on behalf of some state or federal agency.  Sadly, scammers are now taking advantage of this fear by impersonating IRS agents, Medicare officials, Social Security officers, FBI agents and other government officials.  They may also call and say they are with your local police or Sheriff's department, the fire department or any other government agency you can think of ... and some you may never of heard of!  

These people have no limitations on what they will threaten, if they believe they will be able to get you to either give them personal information (like your Social Security or Medicare number) or get you to pay them for some "fine" which they insist you owe.  Far too many people fall for these scams. 

What are the scams which are currently making the rounds?

Medicare Scams - An official sounding scammer may call you and say they are sending you a new Medicare card, but they need to confirm your Medicare number before sending it out.  Never give out your Medicare number to anyone other than your medical provider, during your first in-person visit to their office.  No one should ever ask you for that number over the phone.  No one from Medicare will ever call to ask you that information.

Grant Fraud - If you are a small business owner or the victim of a natural disaster, you may be eligible to file for a grant to get financial assistance.  However, you will never be asked to send in money as part of any government application process.  If you are eligible to apply for a federal grant, your should make sure you are absolutely certain that you are applying through the website of the actual applicable government agency.  Double-check the URL on the site.  In most cases, it will end with .gov.  If you have any questions, try to call the agency and make sure you are not putting your personal information on a fraudulent site.  

Social Security Scams - There are many ways that scammers try to get people to reveal their Social Security numbers.  However, a fairly recent scam is one where someone calls and tells you that your Social Security number and bank account number have been compromised and you should transfer your money, sometimes in the form of Bitcoin, into a new secure account the official has supposedly set up for you.  Do not do it!  Never transfer your money to a new account because someone has called you.  If someone contacts you and you are uncertain what to do, go in person to your local branch of Social Security or your bank and talk to an employee there.  Never give out information over the phone, even if you feel pressured. Bank and Social Security employees have been trained to help people avoid these types of scams, but they can only help if you tell them what is going on.

Student Loan Tricksters - Some people have been called and told that an agent was processing their student loan forgiveness application.  The agent says he just needs to get their Social Security numbers and bank information to complete the process. Once again, never reveal this information over the phone to anyone.  The real student loan processing companies have web sites where you enter any necessary information.  Again, make sure you are on the legitimate website of your loan processor. If the URL does not look right, call them and make sure you are using the correct one.  Also, compare the URL of the website to the information printed on your original loan documents.  

FBI Scam - Do not believe it if a supposed "FBI agent" calls to tell you that you need to send money to the government, whether it is to cover the fees for winning a sweepstakes, or for any other reason.  The FBI does not make "surprise" calls and ask for money.  In fact, neither does the IRS or other government agencies.  Any time a government agency needs to contact you, they will do so first by U.S. mail.

What You Should Know About the Government Contacting You 

The government will not call and ask for personal information.  They already know it.

Important documents from the U.S. government are sent by U.S. Mail

The government will also not contact you through social media, text messages or email.

The government does not randomly offer to send you grant money.  You have to apply through the appropriate agency for a specific reason.

The government will not ask you to send them money up-front before they will pay you a benefit, a grant, or give you a refund.  

The government does not call and threaten to suspend benefits or bully you into revealing personal information.  As stated before, if there is ever a question about something, they will contact you by U.S. Mail and you can follow up with the appropriate agency. 

The government will NEVER ask you to send them money using prepaid gift cards, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin. 

If you keep the above warnings in mind, you should be able to avoid most of the scams that are going around.  Hang up immediately on anyone who calls and pretends to be from the government, unless you have a reason to expect the phone call ... for example, when you have already contacted a government agency by mail or phone and they are returning your call.  Even when this happens, government representatives will not demand payments over the phone, put pressure on you to make an immediate payment, ask you to reveal personal information, or ask you to make payments using gift cards or Bitcoin. 

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