FBI Set Up: Phone Scam Overview

Imagine getting a call from someone claiming to be an FBI agent and they state that you've fallen behind on your taxes or your federal student loans. They claim that there is a federal warrant out for your arrest. 

This impostor scam has been occurring throughout the United States targeting a wide range of individuals, from seniors to college students. The scammer's disguise is bolstered by their use of caller ID spoofing, which allows them to manipulate caller ID to display actual FBI phone numbers.

The Setup

The FBI set up phone scam begins with an unsolicited call. The caller will inform you that they are an FBI agent and they will often give a badge number. They will state that they've been instructed to contact you by another government organization to collect payment from you.

Typically they will say they are calling on behalf of the IRS or the U.S. Department of Education. In some cases in which the scammer will target immigrants they will say they are calling on behalf of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

The caller will state that their victim has fallen behind on payment or hasn't yet paid a fine, and that they will be arrested if they do not pay immediately. In the cases in which immigrants are targeted, they are told that they will be deported if they do not pay. The scammer aims to make the victim panic and make a payment without questioning the situation in these scenarios.

Notice the Warning Signs

It's important to realize that the FBI will never call you to demand you make a payment of any kind. In this scam, the caller will usually demand that immediate payment be made by wire transfer or prepaid debit cards. This is a major red flag in any phone scam.

Scammers prefer payment by wire transfer or prepaid debit cards due to the fact that it is untraceable. Once payment has been made it is impossible for the victim to recuperate their financial losses.

Obtaining the Right Information

If you've been contacted by someone claiming to be an FBI agent you should immediately hang up. You should report the incident to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). You should also help warn others by leaving your feedback on the number in CallerSmart's online phone book or caller ID app for iPhone.