Scammers posing as government agencies surging during pandemic

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Anxiety over COVID-19 has allowed scammers to flourish. The number of criminals posing as government employees is rapidly increasing, according to several agencies.

Many times, it begins with a call during which the person on the other end claims they are a government official and say you’re in trouble.

The Better Business Bureau said scammers are using the names of every government agency they can think of to try to trick people during the pandemic. It said many of those criminals operate from overseas.

“The majority of these people are from across the world, not typically in the country, which makes it more difficult to get justice or get your money back,” said Alyssa Parker with the BBB of Eastern North Carolina.

Scams have exploded since the pandemic began. An AARP survey said 44% of people have been contacted by a government impostor. The Federal Trade Commission said those scams have resulted in more than $450 million in losses since 2015.

“Do not respond to the calls because you have no idea who is on the other side of phone,” said NC attorney General Josh Stein. “Just because they say they are from the government doesn’t mean they are the government.”

Experts said people who receive these kinds of calls need to immediately hang up. They should then look up the real number for the agency that supposedly just called to check to see if it was actually that agency.

The FTC also offered advice on how to deal with those calls, including ways to deal with the criminals. That said, phone calls aren’t the only way these impostors are trying to scam people.

“It’s not just the phone,” Parker said. “It’s email, it’s text messages, and through social media. They’re coming at you in all different ways.”

“A lot of scammers will use high-pressure tactics to really press people to give them money and personal information,” she said.

Remember: government agencies are not going to ask for personal information or payments over the phone. They also don’t make threats like saying “you’re going to jail immediately.”

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