New scam alert: No, the Department of Homeland Security isn’t calling you

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What would you do if the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) called you and started asking personal questions?

Criminals are using a new strategy to get people to disclose their personal information — “spoofing” phone numbers from DHS.

Criminals pretending to be Homeland Security agents are trying to steal your personal information

If you’re unaware, “spoofing” is when scammers call you and mask the phone number they’re using so that it looks like it’s coming from a different phone. Unsuspecting victims look at their caller ID and see what looks like an official phone number from a reputable company or government office.

Along with Homeland Security, perpetrators are posing as “U.S. Immigration” and other government entities. Here’s what Homeland Security says about the new scam in a news release:

“They alter caller ID systems to make it appear that the call is coming from the DHS HQ Operator number (202-282-8000) or the DHS Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) number (202-401-1474).”

The scammers are looking to “obtain or verify personally identifiable information from their victims through various tactics, including by telling individuals that they are the victims of identity theft,” DHS says.

Criminals are also spoofing other law enforcement organizations and threatening to arrest people if they don’t pay up.

Your email is not safe, either. According to DHS, inboxes are being flooded with crooks using official-looking email addresses like “uscis.org.”

Follow Clark’s safety tips to avoid being victimized by ‘spoofing’

Money expert Clark Howard says people need to be on guard now that almost everyone has gotten comfortable using mobile phones. “Caller ID is not the protection you once thought,” he writes.

If you don’t recognize the number or name, Clark says this is what you should do:

  • Let it go to voicemail. That way, if it is a legitimate call, you can hear the purpose of the call and choose to return it.
  • Go to the calling entity’s website and find the customer service number to call them directly about the purported matter at hand.

No matter what, “don’t give personal information” to anybody you’re unsure of, Clark says.

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