FBI warns of scam calls from FBI number

Agency believes scammers may be targeting college students, including UT-Austin

SAN ANTONIO – Scammers are going the extra mile to make you think it's really the federal government on the phone.

The FBI is warning of scam phone calls from people pretending to be FBI agents, IRS agents or other government officials who try and shake down unwitting victims for money. To help their scam, the FBI said scammers are making the incoming call number appear as an FBI local office in Wichita Falls.

"That provides credibility to that scammer and instills fear in the victim, unfortunately," said Special Agent Michelle Lee, San Antonio FBI media coordinator.

The scam is a familiar one, with the scammer telling the victim they owe money, usually from $250 to $1,000, and will be arrested if they don't pay immediately. Lee said the victims vary, but they appear to be targeting college students, including students at University of Texas at Austin.

"I think in most cases, they say they are fees that are owed on student loans," Lee said.

When the scammer poses as an IRS agent, it's usually taxes they say that are owed.

Lee said the callers often have victim's names, addresses and some personal information. She said it's possible the scammers have done some social engineering beforehand, eliciting information with an earlier fake phone call, or through online research.

"A lot of young folks, especially those that are college aged, they probably over share when it comes to social media about personal aspects of their life. So these individuals will take advantage of that," Lee said.

Lee said the scammers usually request payment through gift cards or wire transfers. In many cases, they are from other countries, so getting victim's money back can be difficult.

Lee said law enforcement and government officials will not collect money by phone. If you receive such a call, assume it is a fraud scheme and contact law enforcement.

If you receive a call from someone claiming to be with the FBI, you can verify the claim with the San Antonio field office at 210-225-6741. If you have been defrauded by a scheme, you can report it to the FBI at https://www.ic3.gov.

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About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

David Ibañez has been managing editor of KSAT.com since the website's launch in October 2000.