Homeland Security spoofed in latest imposter scam

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SAN ANTONIO – Imposters are calling.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, Americans lost some $488 million to imposter scams, more than any other fraud.

Cons impersonating government agencies are the biggest trend.

"All day long, we are fielding calls (about) spoofed IRS, spoofed IRS agents," said Jason Meza, of San Antonio's Better Business Bureau office.

Fraudsters pretending to be from the IRS or the Social Security Administration are prevalent. 

Now, the Department of Homeland Security has issued a fraud alert warning that scammers are manipulating the caller ID so it appears Homeland Security headquarters is calling. The callers typically claim to be from immigration and use various tactics, including threats of arrest, to extort money.

"A lot of threats," Meza said. "They play on the emotion tactics and really try to get some money out of you right away."

The scammers have also emailed victims from addresses ending in "uscis.org" so it appears to come from Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General.

Anyone who believes they been a victim of the scam is urged to call the DHS OIG hotline at 1-800-323-8603 or file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC said American consumers lost $1.48 billion to fraud last year in a variety of schemes, including the tech support scheme that has made a resurgence.

Fake tech support purporting to be with well-known companies contact people through computer pop-ups or phone calls. They attempt to convince the consumer that there is a problem with the computer that they can fix. What they want is money and/or access to your computer.

"Once that happens, a lot of things can happen," Meza said. "Malware can be installed. They can hold your computer ransom."

Consumers should not click on any pop-ups or give any information to tech support solicitors.

Scammers also target victims through social media by offering various coupons or deals. 

A recent coupon appearing to be from Little Caesar's Pizza offered three free large pizzas.

Little Caesar's officials have said it is a fraudulent coupon and advise people not to click on it, as it could infect their device. 

About the Authors:

As a consumer reporter, Marilyn is all about helping people stay safe and save a buck. Since coming to KSAT in 1985, she’s covered everything from crime to politics, winning awards for her coverage of the Mexican Mafia, Oklahoma tornadoes, children’s transplants, an investigation into voting irregularities and even a hit-and-run Santa Claus.