Phone Scam Alert: callers aim to frighten consumers

BUFFALO – Phone scammers are at it again, this time posing as “federal agents” looking for social security numbers. Better Business Bureau serving Upstate New York is responding to inquiries from confused and frightened consumers on the receiving end of the scam call. Using forceful tones and threats, con artists are hoping to gain sensitive information.

“This type of call is always unsettling, especially for the elderly,” said Warren Clark, President of Better Business Bureau serving Upstate New York. “It’s very important to be on guard and keep caregivers informed of these activities to protect their loved ones.”

One caller from Erie County reported to BBB that a man called her home phone number, telling her there was an “incident with her social security number” and claimed he was a “federal agent.” The caller ID had a Washington, D.C. area code. She was immediately skeptical and hung up but he kept calling. The caller eventually left a message, threatening her for “messing with a federal agent.”

Scammers will use several tricks to convince people they’re real Federal agents, including spoofing, a form of identity theft where the ‘caller ID’ is falsified. It may appear the call is from a legitimate business or government agency when it’s not.

BBB offers these tips to protect consumers from this phone scam and others like it:

Beware of any caller claiming to be from a federal agency demanding money. The Federal government says it would never ask for payments by wire transfer or a prepaid card. Government agencies will typically alert people to issues by mail, not a phone call.

Never give anyone money or credit card information over the phone.

Never trust callers who use threats and hostility to bully their targets into doing what they want. This is a tactic many scammers use.

Be skeptical of what a caller claims he or she can do if you refuse to meet their demand.

Contact your local police office if you feel threatened.

For more BBB information you can trust, visit and “Like” us on Facebook at