Phone scammers often pretend to be debt collectors, election or IRS officials — heck, they’ve even pretended to be you calling you to scam yourself. Now they’re pretending to be the FBI in hopes of swindling you out of some cash and possibly your personal information as well.
The FBI’s Philadelphia field office issued a warning Wednesday saying a phone scam that fakes the FBI’s name and actual telephone number on the recipient’s caller ID has recently occurred around the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania area.
According to an FBI press release, the scammer has targeted residents of the Harrisburg area and surrounding counties, claiming to be with the FBI; the intended victim is told there’s a federal warrant out for their arrest, which will be thrown out in exchange for immediate payment.
Similar calls have occurred across the country, the FBI said, though the money demand stems from different scenarios – school loans, back taxes, even unpaid parking tickets. Anyone who has received the calls and wants to file a complaint can do so with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov.
“The caller often knows the name, background, and personal cell phone number of the intended victim,” the FBI release said, adding that international students attending U.S. colleges and universities are also targeted.
“The caller insists there are problems with the visitor’s financial aid, and/or student visa, and threatens deportation if payment is not made,” according to the release.
The FBI clarified that the agency does not call or email people to demand money or threaten arrest.
Scammers Love Telephones
A 2015 analysis of complaints to the Federal Trade Commission shows phone calls are the most common way scammers make initial contact with consumers. To help protect yourself from the damage of identity theft and fraud, exercise caution in how you respond to these callers.
The FBI also recommends you:
- Always be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls.
- Never give money or personal information to someone with whom you don’t have ties and did not initiate contact.
- Trust your instincts: if an unknown caller makes you uncomfortable or says things that don’t sound right, hang up.
If you think you may have been a victim of this or similar scams, it’s a good idea to check your financial accounts, credit reports and credit scores frequently for signs of fraud, like unauthorized transactions or unfamiliar entries. Be sure to immediately address these issues by notifying the authorities and even considering a credit freeze. Checking your bank activity for any problems is something you can do daily, but you can also get two free credit scores on Credit.com, updated monthly, to help you quickly spot some signs of identity theft, like that aforementioned sudden drop in scores. You can also get your free annual credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com.
Constance Brinkley-Badgett is an editor and writer at Credit.com, where this article originally posted.