Federal law enforcement is warning about widespread phone scams where callers impersonate government officials. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri and the Social Security Office of the Inspector General warn that imposters talk about a Social Security-related problem to gain a taxpayer’s trust and steal their money. The agencies’ message: hang up on the caller.

Investigators say that these callers:

• threaten arrest or legal action if the victim does not immediately pay a debt, fine or fee;
• say your Social Security number has been suspended, offer to increase benefits or resolve identity theft problems in exchange for payment;
• demand payment using retail gift cards, prepaid debit cards, wire transfers, internet currency or by mailing cash;
• demand secrecy in handling a Social Security-related problem or tell the victim to make up a story to tell friends, family or store/bank employees;
• text victim without permission about a problem with  Social Security number or benefits;
• or email victim attached documents containing personal information to look like they are Social Security officials.

Taxpayers should be cautious if they don’t recognize the problem or issue they’re calling about. The Social Security agency will mail taxpayers a letter with payment options and appeal rights.
Report Social Security scams at www.oig.ssa.gov — and other scams at ftc.gov/complaint.