An unexpected communication from a government agency, such as the IRS or Social Security Administration, will quickly catch your attention ─ easily making you feel stressed or worried.
Scammers know that posing as government workers can be an effective way to manipulate elderly victims to hand over sensitive information that can be used to steal money or even your identity. Here are a few things to know so you can avoid these scams and protect yourself and family.
How to Know It’s a Government Impersonator Scams
Typically, a government impersonator scam begins with an email, phone call or text message indicating they are from a government agency. They might make it seem legit by sharing an “employee ID number,” which makes the phone call sound official.
Often, the scammer has a little bit of personal information about you, such as your address and name. Then, they’ll give you a reason why you need to share information or send money. The message may have an urgent tone with some consequence if you don’t act now, like you owe the IRS money or your Social Security or Medicare benefits will be affected.
The strategy is to put pressure on the victim so they act immediately. When you feel worried about a tax payment or Medicare benefits, it’s easy to make a mistake and follow instructions without verifying the caller’s legitimacy.
What to Do About It to Stay Safe
Government agencies will never email, call or text asking for personal information or money. So, if this type of request comes through, you are likely being scammed. If you get a call similar to above, the best thing to do is hang up the phone. Additionally:
- Ignore Caller ID: Just because the caller ID shows a legitimate number doesn’t necessarily mean it’s coming from a trusted person. Unfortunately, it’s easy to fake caller IDs with modern technology.
- Never send money: Most scammers will ask you to use gift cards, send cash, wire money or pay with cryptocurrency. Unfortunately, these types of payments are hard to track, which is why criminals prefer them.
- Don’t give information: Never offer any personal information over email, phone or text. If you’re wondering if the message is legitimate, find the right contact information to call or email the government agency directly.
- Don’t click on links: When you receive a text message or email, never click on the links within the messages. This could infect your computer or cell phone with a virus or malware, and then cybercriminals can access your personal information without you even knowing about it.
For more information about avoiding common types of scams and elder abuse, Senior Safe and Sound is here to help. Email us at info@SeniorSafeAndSound.org for more information.
This information is intended to inform the public at large about this important issue. It is not intended to serve as legal or medical advice.