BBB: Government imposter scams more creative amid COVID-19 pandemic

Consumer Alerts & Scams

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A new report from the Better Business Bureau is warning people about “Government Imposter Scams.” While the number of scams has fluctuated, scammers are getting more creative during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Callers pretend to be officials from different government agencies, including the IRS and the Social Security Administration. Many have taken advantage of the pandemic by posing as a contact tracer or an employee from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There has been so much confusion around tax deadlines and checks that folks are receiving, so this is a perfect doorway for a scammer to take advantage of the consumer on the other end of the phone,” said Robyn Householder, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky.

Scammers will ask for personal information like your social security number or credit card information. They’ll tell you that you owe money and if you don’t pay, an officer will come to your home to arrest you.

“It’s really, really important that consumers think through who is on the other end of the phone. Government agencies will rarely call you, unless you already have an established relationship with them,” said Householder.

According to the new report, 44% of Americans have encountered these scams, leading to a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars. In Middle Tennessee, 2,800 of them were reported in 2019. This year, that number is already at 700, which is on track to beating last year’s total.

“They are going to try to pressure you, they’re going to force you to try to make a quick decision and they’re going to intimidate you,” Householder said.

So what can be done? The Better Business Bureau says:

  • The telecom industry needs to focus on spoofing
  • The government of India, where many of these scams originate from, need to do more to prosecute the people trying to rip you off
  • Call on law enforcement to take action against scammers physically located in the U.S. and Canada
  • Gift card industry should get more involved in effort to stop these scams

The easiest way to avoid falling victim is hang up the phone. It is highly unlikely that the scammer will call you back. You can report a scam to the Better Business Bureau here.

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