Government imposter scams just hit an all-time high, FTC says

The commission received more reports in May than ever before.

Corinne Reichert Senior Editor
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
Expertise News, mobile, broadband, 5G, home tech, streaming services, entertainment, AI, policy, business, politics Credentials
  • I've been covering technology and mobile for 12 years, first as a telecommunications reporter and assistant editor at ZDNet in Australia, then as CNET's West Coast head of breaking news, and now in the Thought Leadership team.
Corinne Reichert

Government imposter scam calls are on the rise.


Government imposter scams are continuing to rise, the US Federal Trade Commission says, with more reports of scam calls in May 2019 than ever before. So far this year, there have been more than 176,000 reports, amounting to $56 million in total losses. The average loss per person is $1,000, the FTC said Monday.

In these calls, scammers pretend to be government agencies and call people with threats or promises of money. The FTC data shows most imposters pretended to be from the Social Security Administration, at 65,000 scam calls reported to the FTC's Consumer Sentinel Network between January and May 2019.


After Social Security, the most common calls were from Health and Human Services imposters (20,000 reports), IRS imposters (4,500 reports), government grants imposters (1,600 reports) and police, sheriff or FBI imposters (1,400 reported calls).

"These scammers may tell people that their Social Security number has been suspended, which does not happen, or that they are facing arrest because they owe back taxes, and demand payment from the consumer to avoid getting into trouble," the FTC said. "Often, they demand that a consumer pay with a gift card, which is a dead giveaway that the consumer is dealing with a scammer."

In May, there were 46,600 government imposter scams reported. March saw 41,400 and April 39,600 -- all three months beat out the record of 38,400 in September 2016.

Watch this: The FCC's looking to kill off robocalls for good (The 3:59, Ep. 567)