FTC scamAs if the over 21 million federal employees whose information was breached when the Office of Personnel Management’s computer system suffered a major hack earlier this year didn’t have enough to worry about, the FTC is warning about a phony phone call targeting them. According to a press release posted on the FTC’s website on July 22, a scam is being perpetrated which poses the caller as someone from the FTC. They will claim that they are contacting OPM employees and offer money as a result of the recent data breach. The calls reported to the FTC came from a man who identified himself as Dave Johnson out of the FTC’s Las Vegas office; however, a Las Vegas office of the FTC doesn’t exist — and neither does Dave Johnson. Even if you get a call from someone other than Dave Johnson, if they tell you that they’re calling from the FTC and you’re owed money, you shouldn’t believe them. The FTC isn’t giving money to victims of the OPM data breach, and the caller is most likely attempting to trick you into divulging personal information they can use to commit identity theft.

Phone scams are more common than you might think

According to the “Dirty Dozen” list of the top scams of 2015 released by the IRS this year, telemarketing scams are the most popular trick up scammers’ sleeves right now. Phone scams are more sophisticated than ever before, but if you keep a few things in mind, you can avoid falling victim to them.

1. Don’t give out your personal information. If someone calls and requests information like your social security number or credit card/bank account numbers, warning bells should be going off in your head. There are occasionally times when you might be asked to provide the last four digits of your social security number to verify an account or have to give credit card information to make a payment over the phone, but these almost always occur when you place the phone call. Anyone who calls you and asks for this type of information should be regarded with suspicion. In the case of the FTC scam, the caller requests personal information in order to ensure the OPM employee receives money — it should go without saying that you should never have to give out your social security number or bank account information to get money you’re entitled to.

2. Caller ID can’t always be trusted. One of the more insidious developments scammers have made in recent years when it comes to phone scams is the ability to spoof their phone numbers to make it look like they’re calling from a different number or place than they actually are. A common scam during tax season spoofs IRS or even local police station phone numbers to convince the recipient that the caller represents the IRS or police and will be arresting them if they don’t send money immediately. Although a quick Google search would reveal that there is no FTC office in Las Vegas in this case, it’s possible for more sophisticated scammers to say they’re calling from an office that actually exists; that’s why you should always be on your guard. Don’t be afraid to get as much information from the caller as you can then hang up and call back using a number you have verified through the company or agency’s official website.

3. You should never have to send money to receive money. Any phone call that tries to convince you to wire or transfer money in order to receive money you are owed is almost definitely a scam. If you win money in a contest or are owed money as a result of a settlement, there is no reason why you should have to pay anything in order to get the money you’re owed. Anyone who insists otherwise is trying to trick you — don’t let them.

Phone scammers often try to play on your emotions and take advantage of an irrational state of mind, so no matter what, try to remain calm during any unexpected phone calls — and remember, you always have the option to hang up. You can report phony calls and emails to the FTC using its Complaint Assistant web page. Learn more about the OPM breach by following our coverage, and find out more tips and tricks for spotting and avoiding scams on our identity theft protection blog.