Have you noticed lately that every time you pick up the phone, it’s someone trying to scam you? You’re not alone. With stimulus checks on the way and people wondering when their check will arrive, scammers are cashing in on the uncertainty.

It can happen to anyone

In response to a show we did back in the fall, one of our listeners (we’ll call her Mary) passed along information on a scam. Mary was smart, of course, and didn’t fall for it, and instead transcribed the voicemail the scammers left.

The nature behind this call is to inform you about a suspension notice we have received against your social security number by the federal reserve crime and investigation department.

Days later, she received another message…

The reason you have received this phone call from our department is to inform you that there is a legal enforcement action filed on your social security number for fraudulent activities.

So how can you be like Mary? Let’s look at how we can spot the scam and the steps you can take to prevent it.

Spotty English

The first “tell” here is awkward phrasing. Scammers, mostly outside of the United States, target citizens in multiple countries. Often, they are using automatic translators for their scripts, and it’s generally obvious they are unfamiliar with the language. If the government wants to reach you, they will usually do it in writing, and with impeccable grammar.

You must act now!

Of course, the scammers are doing their best to create a sense of urgency. The last thing they want you to do is think about whether their request might be authentic. We’re pretty sure you haven’t done anything that is going to bring down the full weight of law enforcement, and if you have, they aren’t going to ask for your social security number first.

Getting a bit too personal

Of course, they are looking for sensitive information. That’s how they profit. The messages refer to Mary’s social security number. They don’t know it, and they wanted her to provide it. The government will never ask for your social security number over the phone. No legitimate entity will. Your family won’t.

We’ll be blunt. An unsolicited request for sensitive information is your cue to hang up. You don’t need to be polite.

More than one kind of scam

Of course, this isn’t the only type of scam out there. Scammers utilize websites, email, social media and even texting. Be especially wary if you receive a call regarding the following:

Stimulus checks - these will be sent to you or deposited directly into your bank account
Your bank or credit card company - if you receive a request for information, call the toll free customer service number on your bank or credit card to verify the request
Extended car warranties - Usually this is simply an attempt to sell you a junk product.
A loved one in need of money - even if you think it’s actually your relative, don’t provide personal information!
Prize scams - If you are lucky enough to win something, you’ll have to do the work to claim it.

Be vigilant, be prepared, and don’t let bad actors take what you have rightfully earned.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

This article was originally published in the Pioneer Press. You may view the article here.