Social Security scam: FBI, BBB warn of government imposter phone calls

The Better Business Bureau and FBI have released a warning about a new scam involving a fake FBI investigation.

People are receiving calls that their Social Security numbers will be frozen or suspended unless they pay up, the ABC 7 I-Team learned. Traditionally those scammers have been posing as Social Security employees.

"Every regular citizen is going to be intimidated by that information. Nobody wants to be the subject of an FBI investigation," Special Agent Siobhan Johnson told the I-Team.

She said scammers are currently impersonating FBI agents. They're using online rosters to get the names of agents working in your local office.

"The scam originates with someone making a phone call and saying your Social Security account number has been frozen or suspended. At that point, they'll tell you that the FBI is going to send agents to your house for whatever crime is associated with this number," Johnson said. "At that point, people begin to panic, thinking that we're coming to get them, and then they just hand over their money."

If you don't, the scammers will turn up the heat. Johnson says "people think they are going to be arrested if they do not send money immediately."

READ THE FULL BBB WARNING HERE

The FBI said in 2019 there were almost 14,000 victims of government impersonation scams with $124 million in losses.

And in a new study this week, the Better Business Bureau said those schemes are skyrocketing during the pandemic, with 44% of people saying they've been exposed to a government imposter scam.

Johnson said the FBI will not call you or knock on your door about problems with your Social Security number. Plus, the FBI never warns people of an impending arrest.

This scam has made Johnson angry.

"I can say this; we don't usually speak in very specific terms here at the FBI when we are talking to the public," she said. "But I can say, under no circumstances will you get a phone call from the head of our office asking you to send him gift cards or cash. That will never ever happen."

If you are a victim of this scam report it online to the FBI at www.IC3.gov.

Reporting these scams may be worth it. The FBI said there is a 70% recovery rate for funds lost in cyber crimes.
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