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The FCC is warning consumers to be on the lookout for telephone scam artists who impersonate government officials, such as law enforcement or other government representatives, demanding payment in the form of gift cards. Usually the impersonator will threaten that you or a family member will be arrested or face some other legal action unless a payment is made to them. The scammers then demand you purchase gift cards and provide them the redemption codes over the phone.
Although this scam has been around for some time, the FCC issued this warning amid concerns that scammers are employing the use of robo-calling to identify potential targets. Additionally, along with the consumer warning, the FCC held a town hall Q&A via twitter using the hashtag #RobocallChat.
How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
While the FCC provided some basic common sense safety tips, the most important one to remember is that no government official is ever going to accept a gift card as payment for anything. If a caller claiming to be from the government demands you pay for anything using a gift card, it's safe to just hang up the phone and report the call to the FCC.
Another good tip if you suspect that you are being scammed, is to call back the government office the caller claims to be calling from, but don't use the caller ID. Look up the phone number online, then call. Even if the caller ID matches the number you find, don't hesitate to call the number as scammers can actually use software to "spoof" any number, meaning they can make any number they want appear on your caller ID screen.
Robocalls Are the Worst
We all hate robocalls, but what can be done to stop them from interrupting our dinners and distracting our daily lives? The FCC advised that certain phone service providers have solutions that block robocalls from coming through. Additionally, there is the national do not call registry, which allows you to register your phone number to a list that telemarketers are not allowed to call.