Impostor scams have long been among the most lucrative for scammers.  While there are many variations of this scam, the most common variations have involved scammers calling their intended victims on the telephone posing as some governmental agency such as the, FBI, IRS or the Social Security Administration.  The scammer then, under a wide variety of pretenses, demands an immediate payment by gift cards, credit card or wired funds. Being asked to pay by gift cards is a definite indication that the call is a scam since no governmental agency requests or accepts payments by gift cards.   Alternatively, the scammer demands the victim supply the phony governmental agent with personal information such as your Social Security number which will then be used for identity theft purposes.

In the recent case of Rachel Smith, of Nashville Tennessee, she received a call purportedly from a border patrol officer in El Paso, Texas who told her that they had seized a package that appeared to have been sent by her containing illegal drugs.  She was then told that they understood that someone was using her name for illegal purposes, but that in order to protect her money she should withdraw all of the money in her bank account and deposit it into a Bitcoin ATM account provided by the purported federal officer.  She was then told that she would be getting a call from a DEA officer to arrange for her to pick up a check for her money the next day.  The call never came and the money she turned into Bitcoin was gone forever.


It is easy to recognize one of these impersonation scams.  Neither the FBI, IRS, SSA or any federal agency will initiate communication with you by a phone call and they will never threaten you with arrest for non-payment of a claim.  Neither does any government agency accept gift cards or cryptocurrency payments.

As I have often reminded you, through the simple technique of “spoofing” it is very easy for a scammer to manipulate your Caller ID to make a call coming to you appear legitimate when it is not.  The calls being made by scammers in Pittsburgh appear on your Caller ID as if they were being made by the FBI although the call is being made from an entirely different number.  Therefore you can never truly trust your Caller ID.  Trust me, you can’t trust anyone. Even though your Caller ID may indicate that the call is coming from the FBI, the IRS or some other government agency the call is coming from a scammer.

As for the scam that snared Rachel Smith, no law enforcement officer would ever advise anyone to withdraw their funds and deposit them into a Bitcoin account.  Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are a favorite of scammers because they are readily transferred anonymously.  If Ms. Smith had any thought that the outrageous story she was told was true, she should have called the FBI to inquire about it before doing anything.  B.S.  Be skeptical

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