The Los Angeles division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation warned the public Thursday about scammers who are using the agency’s real phone number when making fraudulent demands for money.
“The scammer impersonates a government official and uses intimidation tactics to demand payment of money purportedly owed to the government,” the FBI said of the scheme in which its number is displayed on the victim’s caller ID.
Victims have been told there is a federal warrant for their arrest that would be dismissed if they make an immediate payment, according to the FBI. But the agency said it does not call private citizens to ask for money or threaten arrest.
Still, the scam has been made more believable by the fact that callers often know the name, background and cell phone number of the intended victim, the agency said. Such personal details can be obtained online so the FBI is reminding people to limit how much information they release on social media and other spaces online.
The agency said this scamming tactic has been used in states including California, Texas, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Montana and Colorado. The phone number for FBI offices in Santa Maria and West Covina have also had their phone numbers used in scams.
In a news release, the FBI states victims may also be told their “social security number has been compromised and linked to money laundering” or that it has been used to open bank accounts and the government will seize those accounts.
The victim is told that in order to protect their money, “funds should be transferred to accounts specifically set up by the government which would be protected until the situation is resolved, at which point the money would then be returned,” the news release states.
Victims are also told that failing to transfer the money could lead to their arrest or loss of funds.
They have also been told that they need to meet with a social security administration agent to verify their identity, and a new social security number will be issued so a new bank account can be opened.
The FBI has provided the following tips for those looking to avoid such scams:
Never give money or personal information to someone with whom you don’t have ties and did not initiate contact.
Before signing up for a contest or e-mail distribution list, make sure the business has a policy not to share your information or sell it to a third party.
Trust your instincts: if an unknown caller makes you uncomfortable or says things that don’t sound right, hang up.
Scammers count on your lack of knowledge, so take the time to educate yourself about any offer you receive.
Always be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls.
The agency said anyone who has been contacted by a caller who says they are with the FBI should verify that information with their local FBI field office. Contact information for all offices nationwide can be found at www.fbi.gov.
Those who believe that have been targeted by such scams are asked to file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center by visiting www.ic3.gov.