The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency is warning citizens about an elaborate phone scam where fraudsters pretend to be US Customs officers in an attempt to extort money from victims. This con has robbed unsuspecting Americans of millions of dollars.
How the US Customs & Border Protection Scam Works
The scam typically starts with a phone call from someone claiming to be a U.S. Customs officer. They tell the victim that a package containing illegal items, like drugs or counterfeit documents, was intercepted at the border. The package was addressed to the victim.
The fake officer claims this has opened up a criminal investigation and case against the victim. They threaten the victim with dire consequences like arrest, fines, or imprisonment.
Of course, the victim has no knowledge of any such package. The fraudsters capitalize on fear and confusion to make the story seem legit.
The fake customs officer then tells the victim they can avoid consequences by paying various fees or taxes to resolve the case. They may claim the money is for insurance, anti-terror certificates, release of the package, or other bogus reasons. The scammers often demand untraceable forms of payment like prepaid debit cards, wire transfers, cryptocurrency, or gift cards.
In reality, there is no package, investigation or customs fees. The fraudster’s goal is to get as much money as possible from the frightened victim.
Shocking Inside Look at One Scam Call Center
Independent investigator Jim Browning recently went undercover to infiltrate one of these scam call centers in Delhi, India and observe their ruthless operations.
Browning hacked the CCTV system to watch the scammers in action. He witnessed them celebrating successful scams by openly doing drugs at their desks, even with children present. The ill-gotten gains were often spent on hard drugs and partying.
Browning was also able to warn some potential victims in time to stop them from losing money. But he saw other victims convinced by the racket and unable to be stopped.
This shocking expose revealed just how far these scammers will go to deceive and rob innocent Americans.
What to Do if You Get One of These Calls
If you receive a suspicious call claiming to be from US Customs and Border Protection, here’s what you should do:
- Do not provide any personal information. Hang up immediately.
- Remember, government agencies do not make unsolicited calls asking for money or payments. Any such call is fraudulent.
- Never pay any money or fees to someone who calls unexpectedly posing as a government official.
- Do not trust your caller ID. Scammers use spoofing technology to fake real looking numbers.
- If you’re worried it may be real, hang up and lookup the official number of the agency to call them directly.
- Report the scam call to the Federal Trade Commission and your local authorities to help prevent others from falling victim.
Protect Yourself from Government Imposter Scams
Scammers often pretend to be from government agencies because it makes their con seem legitimate. Here are some tips to avoid becoming a victim:
- Remember government officials will not call to demand or ask for money payments. Hang up on suspicious calls.
- Don’t confirm personal information with unsolicited callers. This includes your name, address, social security number etc.
- Be wary of threats or urgent demands for money from surprise callers. This is a tactic fraudsters use to overwhelm victims.
- Verify identities of callers by looking up official contact info of agencies. Call them at published numbers.
- Report social security number misuse to the FTC and be alert for any suspicious activity in your accounts or credit.
- Advise elderly friends and family about government imposter scams. Seniors are frequently targeted.
What to Do if You Already Paid a Scammer
If you already fell victim and made a payment to someone impersonating customs and border officials, take these steps right away:
- Contact your bank immediately and report the fraudulent transaction. Ask to reverse any wires or stop payments on any checks or gift cards.
- Call your local police department to file an official incident report about the fraud. This can help with recovering lost money.
- Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission so the information can be used in investigations against imposter fraudsters.
- Notify the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General if the scammers now have your social security number.
- Check your credit report and set up alerts for any suspicious activity. fraudsters may try opening new accounts in your name.
- Change any compromised account passwords and enable two-factor authentication where possible.
Stay vigilant and warn others about these deceptive scammers impersonating US Customs and Border Protection officers. If more people are aware of the con, fewer will fall victim to this despicable phone fraud exploiting public fear.