The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is sounding the alarm about an accelerating rate of scams that most commonly target older Americans, where a bad actor will pose as an official representative of the Bureau or another federal agency.
The CFPB published a blog post on Tuesday describing details of the scam, including the lengths that the bad actors will go to convince their targets of the deception.
“This week, we confirmed that scammers are using CFPB employees’ names to try to defraud members of the public,” the blog post said. “We’ve heard from people, specifically older adults, who received phone or video calls.”
The Bureau, the post said, will never solicit personal information or money from members of the American public.
“This includes never asking you to pay an upfront fee or taxes, or telling you that you’ve won a lottery, sweepstakes, or class-action lawsuit,” the post said. “We also won’t ask you for personal or sensitive information before you can cash a check we’ve issued.”
The Bureau outlined three common variations of the scam, including an imposter posing as a government or Bureau official in a phone or video call; calls or messages informing the scam target of a class action lawsuit that could award them money, or some other kind of unexpected direct cash payment; and being told that to collect money, the target must first “pay taxes or another upfront fee to collect the money.”
Scammers will persistently seek to find “reasons” for the target to pay more money to them in “fees or taxes,” but it “is all part of the scam,” the Bureau said.
For anyone contacted by someone claiming to be a CFPB or government official, consumers are directed to reach out to the Bureau’s consumer call center. It can be reached at (855) 411-2372 and operates from 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday. That center can assist a caller with verifying the authenticity of government communication.
“Scammers could reach out to you by phone, mail, email, text message/SMS, social media, messaging apps, or through other online channels,” the CFPB advised. “Scams can also occur in person, at home, or at a business.”
Older Americans are commonly the targets of scammers, as noted by prior CFPB research and public advisory notices. Because of the demographics and involvement in financial services, some scammers have also chosen to falsely identify themselves as members of the reverse mortgage industry.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of the Inspector General has previously warned the public about such scammers, saying that reverse mortgage product complexity could allow certain scammers to sew confusion among their targets and make them vulnerable to bad actors.