‘Money: It's Personal' — Government imposters

By Ivan Herrera - Web Producer, Rick Medina - Video Editor

SAN ANTONIO - This spring, monthly reports of government imposter scams have reached the highest levels the Federal Trade Commission has ever recorded.

With no signs of these types of scams slowing down, it's crucial to keep your information protected from fraudsters, who will stop at nothing to get you to react and give up your valuable personal information and cash.

The FTC said it has received 1.3 million reports about government imposters since the year 2014, which is more than any other type of fraud reported in the same time frame.

The FTC said calls usually go one of two ways: a fraudster will create a sense of urgent fear and ask you to send money or provide information right away. Or, they can act as the good guy and offer you money, a prize or a benefit.

Imposters will say things such as: "your Social Security number has been compromised," "you'll be arrested in the next hour if you don't pay your taxes" or "you're eligible for a government grant if you pay a fee first."

Since 2014, government imposter scam losses have added up to more than $450 million.

While the FTC says only 6% of people who report these types of scams claim they have lost money, when people do lose their hard-earned cash, it's usually a pretty big amount.

The FTC said the median individual reported loss is about $960. And the losses increase with age. Victims 80 years or older report a median loss of $2,700.

The commission reports that Social Security imposters made up 64.6 thousand reports from January to May 2019.

So what can you do to keep yourself protected?

  • The FTC says you should be suspicious of any call from a government agency asking for money or information.

  • Don't trust caller ID, as numbers can be spoofed.

  • If a caller claiming to be with the government asks you to pay with a gift card or wire transfer, do not pay them.

  • Finally, remember, if you're unsure about who's on the other end, hang up and call the agency directly.

For more tips from the Federal Trade Commission on government imposter scams, click here.

“Money: It’s Personal” is a series on KSAT’s News at 9 that breaks down personal finance topics. If you have a suggestion or question on the types of topics you'd like us to explain, click here.

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