FBI Warns Public to Beware of Scammers Posing as Federal Agents

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By Lynne Terry/Oregon Capital Chronicle

Beware of FBI agents seeking bags of cash – or gold.

The FBI’s Portland division warned the public about an increase in scammers pretending to be government officials who threaten victims and try to take their money. Thousands have been fooled, and they’ve lost millions.

According to a news release, the division said scammers call or email victims, pose as an FBI agent and demand that the victims withdraw money – they’ll even take gold bars – from the bank for a courier to pick up.

Don’t do it.

FBI and other government officials would never demand money over the phone or through an email, the office said in a statement. They also would not ask for gift cards or a settlement to avoid arrest and would not threaten to freeze Social Security accounts.

“Federal agencies do not call or email individuals threatening arrest or demanding money,” the statement said. “Recipients should hang up immediately and report the call.”

Scammers can be sly: They can make it look like the phone number is legitimate and from a government agency. Scammers also can fake email accounts, include legitimate photos of an FBI official and the FBI seal.

Another warning sign: an aggressive tone. Scammers will often refuse to speak to anyone other than the targeted victim and demand that they keep the call to themselves, not telling anyone, including family, friends or bank officials. Email scams also often include misspellings, missing words or incorrect grammar.

Besides demanding bags of cash or gold, scammers can ask for prepaid cards, asking victims to read the numbers over the phone or text a picture of the card or ask for a wire transfer or cash through the mail.

Many people are fooled by these scams, the FBI statement said. In 2023 nationwide, nearly 14,200 people fell victim to these scams, losing nearly $395 million. The losses among Oregonians totaled more than $1.7 million, the office said.

Scammers often target older adults: Data shows that 40% of victims are over 60, leading to foreclosed homes or refinanced mortgages and empty retirement accounts. Victims end up turning to family and friends for loans and some instances have resulted in suicide.

If you think you are a victim of an FBI scam, call the Portland office at 503-224-4181, asking to speak to the person directly.

Scams should also be reported to the FBI’s internet complaint center at ic3.gov.

For more information, check the FBI’s webpage on scams.

This story first appeared in the Oregon Capital Chronicle.

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