[A little background: My wife became the victim of a so-called government imposter scam. Please be careful.]
A 75 year old lady in California got a phone call. The callers posed as government officers, saying that her forged ID was found in Southern Texas. They gave her a warning that this ID theft is a case under FBI’s investigation. The agents demanded that she must cooperate with them and not tell anyone, otherwise the government would forfeit all of her money. The caller sounded legitimate over the phone, providing badge and case numbers with her information.
Another government officer named Rajive Marthur also suggested she change the social security number and move her funding to a safe federal reserve. To protect her savings, she starts to wire the money to various bank accounts in the US. She eventually wires the money to Hong Kong as well. It was all based upon the callers’ instruction. Only after she sent all the money she has, she smelled fish and found out that these government officers do not exist. The callers are all con artistis to the bad actors. She fell victim to so called ‘government imposter scams.’ I felt heartbroken because it is quite similar to our stories.
Government imposter scams are becoming the most notorious sham during COVID-19. It is devasting because most of the victims lost their entire life-savings. For example, a Harvard medical professor lost her entire life savings and a couple in Utah also had to see their life savings has vanished. We lost our entire life savings as well. Most victims are often too embarrassed to report their unrecoverable mistakes. The victims are mainly retirees or females with a good credit history.
According to a recent study, 44% of Americans over the age of 18 had been experienced these types of scams. Internal Revenue Services (IRS), Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI), social security administration, and local police officers are the most widely used agencies. Yet, during the COVID-19 Pandemic, even the officers’ names in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the United States Treasury Department have impersonated by suspected callers.
It is arguable, but the reports say, most of these fraudsters appear to originate in India. They impersonated higher-ranking Indian American officers in the government. For example, the ex-chief information officer of social security administration, Rajive Marthur’s name has been involved in at least two cases. One is from a 75-year-old lady’s case and the other one is ours.
According to the article from the justice department, although law enforcement in India is aggressively chasing these criminals, “little evidence exists to suggest that the Indian government will successfully prosecute and impose significant sentences on the perpetrators” A local expert who lives in India explained that most of the victims reside outside of India, which is difficult for the law officers to proactively take action. Also, law enforcement officers in India have to work in a very tough environment without enough resources and money.
It would be unfair to say that these scammers exist only in Indian. The bad actors are everywhere. Recently in South Korea, more than 107 government imposter scammers were caught. They pretended to be prosecutors or government officers, being audacious enough to make a video call with the potential victims. They took almost 14 million from the innocent citizens.
The scammers try to make you afraid and impair your judgment. When they talk about money, they make you feel that you have to take action immediately. Here are the tips on how to identify these imposter scams. First, you need to take a moment to think and take a deep breath. It sounds silly but it works. Next, simply tell them you are going to call back and be comfortable enough to hang up the phone. Third, find a friend or family member you can talk in person with trust.
You need to understand that government officers do not contact people by phone. They do it by mail. Only scammers do. Also, government officers never request personal or financial information by phone or text messages. Social security numbers are never suspended or hard to change unless you are the victim of domestic violence or constantly deal with id theft for more than 7 years. Please don’t assume that this would only happen to unwitting persons. It happens in every educational level, income and age level. I hope this writing has been useful for you to read and see you next time.