The FBI has seen a recent increase in phone calls that spoof the Bureau's phone number as part of various scams, but most recently in trying to obtain personal banking information or gift card/wire transfer payments from unsuspecting citizens in the El Paso and West Texas communities. The callers will often “spoof,” or fake, the FBI El Paso's main phone number, 915-832-5000, and Midland's main phone number, 432-570-0255, so the call appears to be coming from the FBI on the recipient's caller ID. In this scam, fraudulent callers posing as FBI agents inform victims that they are under investigation. The scammers provide a fake name and nonexistent case number to trick the victim into believing they are an FBI agent. The scammers then try to obtain personal information, such as a name, social security number, date of birth, and banking information.
These calls are fraudulent; any legitimate law enforcement officer will not demand cash or gift cards from a member of the public. The FBI defines this type of scam as government impersonation fraud, in which criminals impersonate government officials in an attempt to collect money. The criminals often threaten to extort victims with physical or financial harm to obtain personally identifiable information. Scammers are becoming more sophisticated and organized in their approach, are technologically savvy, and often target young persons and the elderly.
According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), 12,334 people reported being victims of government impersonation scams in 2020, with losses totaling more than $ 106 million. In 2020, Texas reported 1,171 victims reported $ 6.1 million in losses. There were 29 victims in El Paso totaling $ 1.3 million in losses. As of March 5, 2021, 141 victims had already reported $ 3.2 million in losses in the state of Texas. In El Paso, there have been nine victims reporting $ 321,850 in losses. Midland / Odessa are reporting zero incidents in 2020 and so far in 2021. This may indicate that individuals haven't reported the scam to the FBI's IC3.
To protect yourself from falling victim to this scam, be wary of answering phone calls from numbers you do not recognize. Do not send money or gift cards to anybody that you do not personally know and trust. Never give out your personal information, including banking information, Social Security number, or other personally identifiable information, over the phone or to individuals you do not know.
Anyone who feels they were the victim of this or any other online scam should report the incident immediately using the IC3 website at www.ic3.gov . More information about government impersonation schemes and other online fraud schemes can be found at https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-fraud-schemes .