Many consumers have received an email or phone call from someone pretending to be from a government agency trying to coerce consumers into giving money, personal information, or both. These imposters use a variety of tactics to get consumers to cooperate, some threaten arrest, legal action, or putting your social security number ‘on hold’ while others say you’ve won a lottery or sweepstakes and need to pay ‘taxes’ or fees in order to receive the winnings. It is important to remember government agencies do not ask consumers to send money for prizes or unpaid loans, nor are they permitted to ask you to wire money or add funds to a prepaid debit card to pay for anything. If you question the legitimacy of a communication that claims to be from a government agency, contact the agency directly using information you find in the phone directory or online. Do not use numbers or website addresses provided in the original communication as these may be fabricated. Once you are able to contact the actual agency, ask about the message, letter, or phone call you received and if it originated from the agency or from a scam artist.
Consumers have also reported receiving an email that claims to be from the ‘Bureau of Defaulters Agency.’ This is supposedly a government agency affiliated with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Attorney General that goes after people who they claim have unpaid, past-due debts. The email appears to be a court notice with an arrest warrant attached to it. It states that the recipient has ignored the ‘bureau’s’ contact efforts and now his/her social security number is on hold by the federal government, he/she will be prosecuted for fraud, and owe all kinds of money when found guilty. It also states that the recipient has only 24 hours to respond. The ‘Bureau of Defaulters Agency-FTC’ is not a legitimate government agency. It has no affiliation with the FTC or any other government agency. Remember, government agencies and government employees do not ask people to send money for prizes or unpaid loans on the phone or by email.
While most citizens feel they need to be polite and cooperate, especially on the phone, it’s important to note that these fraudsters take advantage of that inclination to be well-mannered. Don’t be afraid to interrupt or hang up on a caller that is asking for your personal information, asking you to send money right away, threatens you, or tries to keep you on the phone. Consumers who receive fraudulent letters or emails are encouraged not to respond to the sender but instead report the fraud. Letters received in the mail can be reported to the U.S. Postal Inspector. Fraudulent emails can be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org and then deleted. Remember to empty your computer’s trash bin and run antivirus software after deleting the message. Fraudulent or unwanted telephone calls can be reported to Colorado No Call and the Federal Do Not Call programs. If you’ve been a victim of an imposter scam or wish to report suspicious activity, file a report here.