PHOENIX -- Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is warning consumers and businesses about government imposter scams that are continuing to make the rounds in Arizona. Recently, the Attorney General’s Office has seen an uptick in consumer complaints about scammers pretending to be from the Social Security Administration.
Government imposter scams have many different angles but typically involve a phone call, email, text message, or letter from someone claiming to be from a government agency. The scam artist states you owe the government money, will be arrested, or stand to lose government benefits or services. In order to rectify the situation, you must send money, buy and send gift cards, and/or provide personal information like your Social Security Number. In another variation of the scam, the government imposter states you have won money, or you are entitled to money from the government but need to pay “a fee.” These con artists may also tell you they are from the IRS or the Social Security Administration, that you’ve failed to report for jury duty, or that you are eligible for government grant money.
"It sickens me that these scammers use scare tactics to rip off some of the most vulnerable members of our community,” said Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “Arizonans need to remember legitimate government offices will not threaten you or demand that you pay a debt immediately.”
Government imposters use a variety of tactics to intimidate victims into providing money or personal information. They may use official-sounding names; start a phone call by providing a “badge number” or “identification number”; or use a “spoofed” phone number to make the call look like it comes from your local area or Washington, D.C. (when in fact, the phone number may be coming from out of the country). They may even mention personal information about the victim to make the call seem more legitimate. Con artists will typically demand that the victim take action right away to avoid being arrested or sued.
Attorney General Mark Brnovich offers these tips:
- Do not give out or confirm personal or financial information unless you know who you are dealing with.
- Legitimate government offices will not threaten you with imprisonment or demand that you pay a debt immediately.
- Hang up the phone if you are being harassed.
- If you question the legitimacy of the call, email, or other correspondence, contact the agency directly using the information you find on the agency’s website. Do not use numbers or website addresses provided in the original communication, as these may be fake.
- Do not wire funds or purchase and send a prepaid card (i.e., iTunes, Amazon, Green Dot, etc.) in response to a telephone call demanding immediate payment.
- Look closely at literature you receive claiming to be from a government agency and read the fine print. Many times these solicitations will look like they are from the government, but the small print may disclose that the sender is not the government agency they claim to be.
- If someone comes to your house posing as a government employee, ask to see credentials.
If you believe you are a victim of consumer fraud, you can file a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office at www.azag.gov/complaints/consumer. You can also contact the Consumer Information and Complaints Unit in Phoenix at (602) 542-5763; in Tucson at (520) 628-6648; and outside of the metro Phoenix area at (800) 352-8431.