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Scammers are using threatening letters and calls to pose as the FTC, BBB warns

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Posted at 11:33 AM, Dec 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-31 13:33:07-05

Scammers can take a lot of forms, oftentimes posing as the IRS or the Social Security Administration. But now they're posing as the Federal Trade Commission — and some people are falling for it, the Better Business Bureau says in a new warning.

So how does the scam work?

You get a very realistic looking letter that appears to be from the FTC. It even has a letterhead that seems very official. The letter says that your “online and financial activities” have put you under suspicion of money laundering and terrorism. The FTC will now be monitoring everything you do, the letter claims.

The letter won't ask you for anything, but is setting up a longer con, the BBB says. Next, the victim of the scam begins to receive "urgent" phone calls demanding money. The scammers claim to be working with the FTC on a “federal investigation" and say you’ve been linked to the crime. In order to escape criminal charges, the scammer will say, you need to send money in the form of prepaid gift cards.

"One victim reported that scammers threatened her when she pushed back on the demands," the BBB says. "They told her: 'Are you questioning the federal government, ma'am? Remember you are being recorded and anything you say can be used against you.' No matter what scammers demand, just hang up. The real FTC does not send intimidating letters or make threatening phone calls."

The BBB offers the following tips and tricks to ensure you don't fall victim to this scam, or others like it.

  • The FTC will never make threatening phone calls or send letters
  • The FTC does reply to letters they receive. Also, they sometimes send letters about a refund from a case. But they will never ask you to pay anything or give personal info to collect your funds. (Find more about FTC refunds at FTC.gov/redress.)
  • No government agency will ever demand that you pay by gift card, wiring money or cryptocurrency.
  • Don't believe what you see. Scammers are great at mimicking phone numbers, official seals, fonts and other details. Just because it looks legitimate does not mean it is.