Sadly, the thieves of today will go to any lengths imaginable in order to steal your identity. Over the past few years, a disturbing trend in scams has been for thieves to send emails posing as FBI agents in order to try and trick consumers into giving up their personal information. IC3.gov received over 14,000 complaints in 2011 of scam artists posing as agents from the FBI and contacting potential victims via emails.
You may wonder what do these emails look like? The email will generally contain a congratulatory message to the victim stating they had won a contest or a lottery, or had been selected by the federal government to receive a special grant. Many of these messages used the names of real, high ranking agents in an attempt to gain the trust of the victim. The announcement of the award was often followed by a request for the victim to wire the “tax money” for this special reward to an address not associated with a government building before they received their promised funds.
What many people don’t realize is that the federal government does not know their email address. Only state agencies give money to low income and needy consumers and they must apply for it first. There is no US Government lottery and the FBI does not hand out award money like the “prize patrol.”
Some simple tips consumers need to keep in mind when it comes to receiving emails that appear to be from government agencies:
- The FBI does not know your email address, nor does any other law enforcement agency. The FBI will only contact you over the phone or, more likely, in person. If this happens, it is not because you have won money. The FBI usually only contacts consumers during the course of investigating a crime or to arrest a suspect.
- The Federal Government and State Governments do not give away free money. There are state run programs for financial assistance but consumers must apply for them in order to be awarded the benefits. The Government does not have a lotto, nor do they pick people at random to receive a grant.
- Taxes on prizes such as legitimate lotteries or reporting grant money earnings are always done at the end of the year with your regular taxes. The Government will not ask you to file special taxes unless there are special rules for that awarded money. If so, there will be a special government agency you would contact for this.
- The Government will never ask you to wire tax money or use Western Union.
If you receive an email posing as any government agency that states that you have won a cash prize, do not respond. Report the email to www.IC3.gov