We have a consumer alert about a growing scam affecting hundreds of millions of people, including thousands right here in Tennessee.
Complaints about scammers pretending to be with government agencies are at a record high. These are people pretending to be with agencies such as the IRS or the Social Security Administration.
News4 Problem Solver Lindsay Bramson found out how you can protect yourself from becoming a victim.
If you haven't received the call yet, you could be next.
One recording may say, "You will be taken under custody by the local cops. As there are four serious allegations pressed on your name at this moment."
Another example of a message left on your phone is, "This call is to inform you that there is a legal enforcement action going to be taken on your name and your social security number. If I don't receive your call, your social security number will be suspended."
The Federal Trade Commission says in May alone, it received more than 46,000 complaints. All from people who say they were contacted by someone pretending to be with a government agency.
Since 2014, Tennessee residents have filed nearly 24,000 reports about government imposters, with reported loses of nearly $6 million dollars.
“They try to frighten people into acting quickly without thinking it through,” said Emma Fletcher with the Federal Trade Commission.
According to the FTC, these scammers may tell people that their Social Security number has been suspended, which does not happen, or that they are facing arrest because they owe back taxes.
They may also demand payment from the consumer to avoid getting into trouble.
But don't fall for it, because that phone call you're getting isn't real.
In Tennessee alone, just in the last 6 months, 3,600 Tennessee residents have reported losing over $550,000 on government imposter scams.
“These are scams that are happening overwhelmingly by phone, so they can reach anyone, anywhere,” said Fletcher.
So, how can you tell if a call is fake? First, be suspicious. If someone claiming to be with a government agency calls you out of the blue, that’s a red flag.
Don't trust caller id. These scammers know what they're doing and the number that pops up on your phone may actually be a real government phone number.
And if someone asks for a gift card or demands money right away, that's a dead giveaway it's a scam.
While the FTC doesn't make arrests, they work with police who do. Sometimes they can find those making calls and stealing money but admit it can be hard since often times the scammers are in other countries.
For more information from the FTC, click here.
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