INDIANAPOLIS — The Better Business Bureau has a warning out about a growing scam that can hit you right in the pocket book — the government imposter scam, in which the scammers pretend to be from the federal government, most often — the Social Security Administration.
Jena Pollard of Indianapolis considers herself a savvy consumer.
"I would definitely be one of those people, ‘oh it wouldn't happen to me,’” Pollard said.
When Pollard got a phone call from the Social Security Administration, she was concerned.
“They told me my social security number had been compromised and that they were going to be giving me a new one,” Pollard said.
Pollard said the caller knew her address, told her to take money out at the bank, and that a warrant could be issued for her arrest.
As a mother, that got her attention.
"Someone can tell you that you have a warrant for your arrest coming up for all these things you didn't do, and you could potentially be taken away from your children, what would happen? " Pollard said.
Pollard hung up, and later called the number back, which is when she realized it was a scam.
"When they answered the phone they said they were somebody else, like homeland security or something,” Pollard said. "I told him I know this is a scam, and that I was going to report it."
Pollard did report it to the Better Business Bureau Serving Central Indiana.
"We are seeing a real uptick, particularly in the last few years,” said BBB president Tim Maniscalo.
Maniscalo said what happened to Pollard is a government imposter scam in which the scammer calls, texts or emails you claiming to be from the government.
It’s all a ploy to get your personal and financial information, said Maniscalo.
“It does sound official,” Maniscalo said. “They are very good at impersonating. It looks like it's calling from a 202 area code which is actually the Washington DC area code, so there are little tricks like that that can make it look real."
Scammers are using advanced techniques to dupe consumers, including using official employee names, logos and fabricated federal badges.
In some cases, they’re texting and emailing copies of those badges to consumers.
Last year, people across the country lost $395,000 to government imposter scams.
The number one agency scammers claim to be from — the Social Security Administration.
In a May 2021 Semiannual Report to Congress, the inspector general of the SSA reported that the rates of social security fraud calls increased exponentially between May and August 2020.
You can protect yourself by knowing the red flags.
The Social Security Administration will never:
- Text or email images of an employee’s official government identification
- Suspend your Social Security number
- Threaten you with arrest or other legal action unless you immediately pay a fine or fee
- Require payment by retail gift card, wire transfer, internet currency or mailing cash
- Promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment
"Don't fall for if they start to threaten you, start to pressure you,” Maniscalo said. “If they want payment they will ask for unusual forms of payment like debit cards, gift cards-that's not how the government works."
When in doubt, ask to call them back, but don’t call a phone number left on your voice mail by a robocaller.
If you want to contact SSA, call the customer-service line at 800-772-1213.
Thankfully, Jena Pollard did not give up any money or personal information. She wants others to know the tricks scammers are using.
"It's scary and can happen to many people,” Pollard said. “People can be aware of the scam going on, it might be able to help someone put a stop to it."
How to Report Government Imposter Scams
- File a report with the BBB Scam Tracker
- File a report with the Social Security Administration’s fraud hotline at 800-269-0271 or here
- If your Social Security number has been stolen, file an identify theft report with the Federal Trade Commission
- If you want to contact the Social Security Administration, call the customer service line at 800-772-1213