Stopping Theft by Government Impersonation

Beyond the Numbers

Friday, May 12, 2017
Posted by: 
The Communications Division

Acting Inspector General Gale Stallworth Stone recently warned citizens about telephone “imposter” schemes; citizens across the country have reported receiving calls from individuals posing as OIG investigators. The culprits of these schemes attempt to solicit personal information such as Social Security numbers (SSN) or bank account numbers from people over the phone, or to convince them to provide fees or gift cards for false reasons.

These schemes have not been exclusive to the SSA OIG; IGs from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have recently issued similar alerts to the public about impersonation scams.

According to HHS, a Florida woman received a call that appeared to be from the HHS OIG hotline number. The caller told her she won a $9,000 grant from the federal government; to receive the money, she had to either wire $250 to the caller or provide the confirmation code for a $250 iTunes card.

The caller also wanted her to confirm the woman’s name, address and some other personal facts, but she became suspicious and ended the call. In this instance, the woman did not send the money; however, the scammer was able to sway her into confirming and providing some personal information, which the caller could use for fraudulent activity.

Similarly, DHS warned citizens that the DHS OIG hotline number was used as part of a telephone spoofing scam. Perpetrators of the scam represent themselves as employees with “U.S. Immigration” and alter caller ID systems to make it appear that the call is coming from the DHS OIG hotline. Like the other scams, the callers attempt to acquire or verify personal information through various methods, including telling people that they are victims of identity theft. DHS OIG reminded the public that the agency never uses its hotline number to make outgoing calls—the number only receives information from the public.

These OIG imposter schemes come on the heels of a widespread IRS impersonation scam. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has warned citizens of callers impersonating IRS or Treasury Department employees and demanding payments on iTunes cards. The culprits often state that they are from the “Department of Legal Affairs,” according to the TIGTA. Additionally, the scammers ask for payment of taxes on prepaid credit cards.

This scam has resulted in more than $55 million in reported taxpayer losses, according to TIGTA. The agency has an online form to report these incidents.

In addition to alerting and warning the public about these fraud schemes, IGs are committed to pursuing the perpetrators of these scams. Our investigators have assisted HHS OIG, TIGTA, and other law enforcement agencies to conduct investigations of persons who attempt to defraud unknowing citizens.

Just last month, special agents from our Dallas Field Division and TIGTA arrested eight people in South Florida who allegedly participated in a nationwide scheme and stole nearly $9 million from more than 7,000 victims by impersonating IRS agents. While claiming to be IRS employees, the individuals reportedly called and threatened victims with legal action, arrest, and imprisonment for a supposed debt owed to the IRS. They also used other methods of intimidation to convince victims to wire money through various wire transfer services.

Congress is especially interested in protecting citizens from these schemes. Senator Susan Collins, Chair of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, applauded the recent arrest operation in Florida.

“Putting a stop to aggressive and ruthless scams has long been one of my highest priorities,” Senator Collins said. “These arrests should put other con artists on notice that we will relentlessly pursue those who seek to rob seniors of their hard-earned savings.”