Beware of Government Imposter Scams

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It's that time of year.

Law firms should be on high alert for “government imposter” scams regarding Social Security and Medicare, which spike during tax season.

You should also remind your clients to be vigilant as well.

One red flag: you receive an “official” notice from the Social Security Administration that you were not expecting.

“Surprised to get that letter?” writes the SSA in a press release. “You should take a second look. And then another. Scammers are sending fake letters that closely resemble official Social Security Administration (SSA) and SSA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) letterhead or that of other government agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission. Scammers usually send these letters as attachments to emails and text messages. These scammers are trying to steal your money or your identity.”

The SSA notice may arrive by email, regular mail, social media, telephone or text. Sometimes the scammers are phishing for personal or financial data. Alternatively, the notice will warn of an urgent problem with the recipient’s account and demand an immediate payment to “fix” the problem.

“According to the Federal Trade Commission, in 2022 victims of government imposter scams reported losing nearly $509 million,” says the SSA. “Scammers are counting on the public to be uninformed.  Scammers pretend to be from an agency or organization you know to gain your trust.”

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Signs of a Government Imposter Scam

  • Scammers say there is a problem with your account.
  • Scammers say you are eligible to receive a prize or case award.
  • Scammers pressure you to act immediately.
  • Scammers tell you to pay in a specific way.
  • Some aspects of the “official” government letter appear off.

How to Avoid a Government Imposter Scam

  • Hang up the phone or delete the email.
  • Ignore the message.
  • Do not disclose sensitive information.
  • Do not pay anything without first talking to someone you know and trust to make sure it is legitimate.
  • Do not transfer money or purchase gift cards.
  • Maintain a healthy skepticism.
  • Safeguard your financial accounts.
  • Be immediately wary of unexpected calls and correspondence.
  • Do not click on links or attachments.

If you confirm it was a scam attempt, contact local law enforcement and consider filing a police report. Notify the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (ic3.gov). Report Social Security-related scams to SSA OIG (oig.ssa.gov). Report other scams to the Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov).

SOURCE: scam-alert-press-release-march-2023.pdf (ssa.gov)

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