Scammers are impersonating this government agency to steal your cash — don’t answer this call

Phone scam showing an unknown caller on a phone screen
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you need another reason not to answer your phone, scammers are currently impersonating a little-known government agency in an attempt to con you of your hard-earned cash.

In a notice on its site, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency or CISA, as it’s more commonly known is warning Americans that phone scammers have begun impersonating the agency online.

Impersonation scams like this one are nothing new. However, unlike when a business calls you unexpectedly, potential victims are more likely to respond and take action when they think it’s a government agency on the other end of the phone.

Just like with other similar scams, this one involves the person pretending to be from CISA asking the caller to send cash, cryptocurrency or gift cards to them. However, no U.S. government agency — or one from any other country, for that matter — would ever ask you to do this.

To help others avoid falling into this particular scam, CISA is asking that recipients write down the scammer’s number and report it to the agency directly. Likewise, it may also be worth contacting law enforcement as well.

How to spot a scam call

woman holding phone and credit card after being hacked

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

As Bitdefender points out in a blog post detailing this scam, Americans lost over a billion dollars to scammers last year, according to the FTC. In fact, reported losses from impersonation scams like the one described above topped $1.1 billion, which is three times more than they did back in 2020.

Most of these reported scams involved account security alerts, subscription renewals, giveaways, discounts, money to claim, problems with law enforcement and an ongoing favorite among scammers, package delivery problems.

Unlike phishing emails, where you can take the necessary time to go through them to realize they are fake, phone scams really play at your emotions since you’re talking to an actual person on the other end of the line. This is why screening your calls is incredibly important.

While most of the best phones and many phone providers offer features to combat scams and fraud, nobody does it quite as well as Google with its Pixel phones. Besides years of support and other cool extras, the search giant’s Call Screen feature is almost reason enough to buy a Pixel over other Android phones on its own. Not only does it screen your calls for you, but it uses Google Assistant to talk to the person on the other end of the phone like a real human.

Even if you don’t switch to a Pixel, there are plenty of steps you can take to avoid phone scammers. For starters, don’t answer calls from unknown numbers unless you’re expecting a call. If you do answer such a call, don’t give away any personal information you wouldn’t be comfortable sending in an email or message and most importantly, never give anyone your credit card details over the phone or agree to send them money.

Phone scams have been around for a long time, and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. We just need to get better at recognizing the telltale signs of a phone scam and not letting our emotions get the best of us.

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Anthony Spadafora
Senior Editor Security and Networking

Anthony Spadafora is the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to password managers and the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. Before joining the team, he wrote for ITProPortal while living in Korea and later for TechRadar Pro after moving back to the US. Based in Houston, Texas, when he’s not writing Anthony can be found tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.