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PBGC Fraud Alerts

PBGC, in cooperation with its Office of the Inspector General, posts timely fraud alerts to spread awareness about fraud scams and to limit their impact.

Unsolicited Telephone Calls from PBGC Imposters

Unsolicited Telephone Calls from PBGC Imposters  
December 9, 2016

The Office of Inspector General is alerting pension recipients and the general public about scams involving individuals claiming to be Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation employees calling seniors regarding pensions they may or may not have earned. Please be aware that the PBGC will not make unsolicited telephone calls asking for personally identifying or financial information, demanding money or threatening you.

What are some characteristics of these types of telephone scams?

  • Scammers use fake names and PBGC identification numbers to make it appear as if they are PBGC employees. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
  • Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim's Social Security number, telephone number or home address to make it appear as though their call is legitimate.
  • Some con-artists use technology to disguise their area code and telephone number in caller ID systems. Although it may look like they're calling from PBGC in Washington, DC, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.
  • Scammers may send bogus PBGC emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
  • Victims may hear background noise of other calls being conducted to make it appear as if the call is coming from a legitimate call site.
  • After threatening victims with jail time or driver's license revocation, scammers may hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or Department of Motor Vehicles. The caller ID the scammer uses may even support this bogus claim.
  • Scammers may insert malicious computer code into seemingly harmless email file attachments. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in an email message.

To avoid becoming a victim of this type of fraud:

  • Don't give out your personal information. Scammers pressure people to divulge their personal information, including birth dates, social security numbers, and bank account information so that they can steal money. Always keep your personal information, including bank account information, confidential. Tell the caller you will hang-up and call the PBGC Customer Contact Center toll-free number to discuss your alleged pension issue. Then call the Customer Contact Center and your local law enforcement agency as needed.
  • Take control of the calls you receive. If you want to reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive, place your telephone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. To register online, visit donotcall.gov. To register by phone, call (888) 382-1222 (TTY: (866) 290-4236) from the phone number you wish to register.

How does the PBGC usually contact individuals about pension benefits?

PBGC will not initially contact you by phone, but rather through official correspondence sent through the U.S. Mail. A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from PBGC and urging immediate payment. Also, PBGC:

  • Never requests immediate payment over the telephone and will not take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation. Recipients will have already been receiving a pension from PBGC and will receive prior notification through official correspondence, sent by U.S. Mail, if you owe PBGC a refund of overpaid pension benefits.
  • Never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone.
  • Never insists that participants use a specific payment method to pay pension refunds.
  • Never initiates contact with recipients by email or phone to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.
  • Never asks for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts.

Are you a victim?
If you believe you are or have may have been a victim, file a complaint with the PBGC (as listed below) and your local law enforcement agency:

  • If you know you owe PBGC money or think you might owe them money, call PBGC at (800) 400-7242 or (202) 326-4000. A PBGC representative can help you with a payment issue.
  • If you've been targeted by this scam, you may also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their "FTC Complaint Assistant" at FTC.gov. Please add "PBGC Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.
  • If you know you don't owe PBGC money or have no reason to think that you owe any pension refund then report the incident to PBGC Office of Inspector General HOTLINE at (800) 303-9737, TTY/TDD (800) 877-8339, oighotline@pbgc.gov or visit us on the Web at  http://oig.pbgc.gov/hotline.html.
Anthem Service Benefit Plan (Blue Cross/Blue Shield) Data Breach

Anthem Service Benefit Plan (Blue Cross/Blue Shield) Data Breach
April 3, 2015

The Office of Inspector General is alerting Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation employee, pension recipients and the general public to 1) an Information Technology records data breach that occurred on January 29, 2015 at Anthem Inc. (Blue Cross / Blue Shield) - a major health care insurance provider, and 2) free assistance offered by Anthem, Inc. to data breach victims. 

This data breach potentially could result in unauthorized use of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in identity theft scams.  The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Publication 800-122 defines PII as "any information about an individual maintained by an agency, including (1) any information that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual‘s identity, such as name, social security number, date and place of birth, mother‘s maiden name, or biometric records; and (2) any other information that is linked or linkable to an individual, such as medical, educational, financial, and employment information."  Individuals should practice vigilance in the monitoring of their various personal accounts (e.g. credit card, banking, etc.) for potential suspicious or fraud activity.   

Anthem, Inc. reported the information accessed during the cyber-attack may have included names, date of birth, Social Security Information, and income data.  Anthem, Inc. does not believe credit card or banking information was compromised, nor is there evidence at this time that medical information such as claims, test results, or diagnostic codes, were targeted or obtained.

Anthem, Inc. will be mailing notification letters to all Blue Cross/Blue Shield Anthem Service Benefit Plan members whose data was exposed in the Anthem cyber-attack.  Anthem, Inc. anticipates that it will take several weeks for the notification letters to be mailed and received by all impacted members.  The notification letter includes information on the free credit monitoring and identity protection services offered by Anthem, Inc. to impacted members.  The web site for additional information regarding the credit monitoring service is located at: https://www.anthemfacts.com.

The PBGC employees and pension participants are encouraged not to fall victim to potential identity theft scams which may sprout from this data breach and offers these avoidance suggestions:

  • Don’t give out or confirm your bank or financial account information to anyone you don’t know.
    Scammers pressure people to divulge their banking and credit account information so that they can steal the money in the account or make fraudulent credit card charges.  Always keep your financial account information confidential.  Don’t share it unless you are familiar with the caller/email source and know why the information is necessary.  If you receive a suspicious call hang up and then contact your local law enforcement agency as needed.  If you receive an email from an unknown sender, delete it without opening it.
  • Phone numbers can deceive. 
    Some con artists use Internet Technology to disguise their area code in caller ID systems.  Although it may look like they’re calling from one place or a particular business name, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.
  • Take control of the calls you receive.
    If you want to reduce the number of telemarketing or unwanted calls you receive, place your telephone number on the National Do Not Call Registry.  To register online, visit donotcall.gov.  To register by phone, call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236) from the phone number you wish to register.

If you believe you are, or have may have been, a victim of the Anthem, Inc. data breach, contact Anthem, Inc. via the listed means, and then file a complaint with your local law enforcement agency:

Anthem, Inc.:

  • Those without Internet access can call 877-263-7995
  • To access identity repair services, please call 877-263-7995
  • For additional information regarding your protections, please visit:
    https://anthem.allclearid.com/faqs.

PBGC employees and pension recipients may also contact the Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations concerning this ALERT 2015-02, or for more information about reporting suspected fraud, waste, or abuse:

  • The PBGC OIG Hotline (1-800-303-9737);
  • Special Agent in Charge Curtis Flood at 202-326-4000 ext. 3104;
  • Special Agent Charles Jones at 202-326-4000 ext. 3315, or
  • Special Agent Claressia Jones at 202-32-4000 ext. 3685.
    (TTY/TDD Users: 202-326-4115)

We also invite you to visit our website at http://oig.pbgc.gov.

Peter P. Paradis, Sr.
Assistant Inspector General
For Investigations

Government Grant Scam

Government Grant Scam
October 3, 2014

The Office of Inspector General is alerting the public to a series of scams involving fictitious government grants. In most instances, an individual will receive a phone call or email from someone purporting to be a government official. The caller or writer will claim the victim is entitled to a government grant. The caller/writer may already be in possession of the intended target's name and address. At some point, caller/writer informs the victim that in order to receive the government grant, the victim must pay a processing fee. The victim is further solicited for additional personal financial information.

The PBGC does not issue grants. Further, the Federal Trade Commission suggests following a few basic rules* to prevent becoming a victim of this type of scam:

Don't give out your bank account information to anyone you don't know.
Scammers pressure people to divulge their bank account information so that they can steal the money in the account. Always keep your bank account information confidential. Don't share it unless you are familiar with the company and know why the information is necessary.

Don't pay any money for a "free" government grant.
If you have to pay money to claim a "free" government grant, it isn't really free. A real government agency won't ask you to pay a processing fee for a grant that you have already been awarded - or to pay for a list of grant-making institutions. The names of agencies and foundations that award grants are available for free at any public library or on the Internet. The only official access point for all federal grant-making agencies is www.grants.gov.

Look-alikes aren't the real thing.
Just because the caller says he's from the "Federal Grants Administration" doesn't mean that he is. There is no such government agency. Take a moment to check the blue pages in your telephone directory to bear out your hunch - or not.

Phone numbers can deceive.
Some con artists use Internet Technology to disguise their area code in caller ID systems. Although it may look like they're calling from Washington, DC, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.

Take control of the calls you receive.
If you want to reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive, place your telephone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. To register online, visit donotcall.gov. To register by phone, call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236) from the phone number you wish to register.

If you are a victim of a government grant scam using PBGC's name, please contact the PBGC Office of Inspector General Hotline at 1-800-303-9737 to report it.

If you are a victim of a government grant scam not involving PBGC, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online, or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

For more information about reporting suspected fraud, waste, or abuse to the Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations, please contact: Special Agent in Charge Curtis Flood at ext. 3104, Special Agent Charles Jones at ext. 3315, or Special Agent Claressia Jones at ext. 3685. (TTY/TDD Users: 202-326-4115)

We also invite you to visit our website at http://oig.pbgc.gov.

Peter P. Paradis, Sr.
Assistant Inspector General
for Investigations

Public Utility Company or Green Dot Visa Card Scam

Public Utility Company / Green Dot Visa Card Scam
September 22, 2014

The Office of Inspector General is alerting you to a current fraud scam involving alleged cancellation of public utility services. In most instances, an individual will receive a phone call from someone purporting to be a representative of a public utility service [e.g. Baltimore Gas and Electric (BG&E)]. The caller will claim the victim's public utility service is scheduled to be terminated unless immediate payment is made. The imposter suggests payment be made via the use of a "Green Dot" Visa credit card, which the victim can purchase from the imposter. The imposter will then request personal financial information from the victim in order to "process" the purchase of the "Green Dot" Visa credit card.

Utility companies and other legitimate businesses do not call people and ask them to pay bills with Green Dot visa cards.

The PBGC employees and pension participants are encouraged not to fall victim to this scam and offers these avoidance suggestions:

Don't give out your bank account information to anyone you don't know.
Scammers pressure people to divulge their bank account information so that they can steal the money in the account. Always keep your bank account information confidential. Don't share it unless you are familiar with the company and know why the information is necessary. Call the Customer Service Center of your current public utility if you have questions concerning your account(s), and then your local law enforcement agency as needed.

Phone numbers can deceive.
Some con artists use Internet Technology to disguise their area code in caller ID systems. Although it may look like they're calling from Washington, DC, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.

Take control of the calls you receive.
If you want to reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive, place your telephone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. To register online, visit donotcall.gov. To register by phone, call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236) from the phone number you wish to register.

If someone knocks at your door, be extra cautious:
Always take the time to confirm the authenticity of displayed identification. Most public utility companies require their employees and contractors to carry company identification badges, displaying their name, photograph and identification number. Remember:

  • Customers should NEVER open their door to someone they don't recognize and should always ask for a photo ID through the door or window, especially if the visit was not a requested appointment.
  • Imposters may wear "official-looking" clothing and carry fake credentials.
  • Ask for a business card or other official company information and tell the person you need to call the company's Customer Service Center to verify their credentials before you will do business with them.

See Something - Say Something.
Customers who encounter suspicious activity or suspected utility imposters are urged to contact law enforcement immediately. If at any time, customers are concerned for their safety, they should contact 911. Assaults have occurred so you are protecting yourself and your neighbors.

Be familiar with your utility companies payment policies.
Many public utility companies no longer accept cash payments in the field and offer customers safe, convenient ways to make payments including calling them via 1-800 contact numbers, or on-line, by mail and/or at authorized payment locations.

If you are a victim of a Public Utility Company / Green Dot Visa Card Scam, file a complaint with your public utility service's Customer Service Center and local law enforcement agency.

For more information about reporting suspected fraud, waste, or abuse to the Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations, please contact: Special Agent in Charge Curtis Flood at ext. 3104, Special Agent Charles Jones at ext. 3315, or Special Agent Claressia Jones at ext. 3685. (TTY/TDD Users: 202-326-4115) We also invite you to visit our website at http://oig.pbgc.gov.

Peter P. Paradis, Sr.
Assistant Inspector General for Investigations

IRS Tax Refund or Payment Fraud Alert

RS Tax Payment Demand / Tax Refund Telephone Scam
September 16, 2014

The PBGC Office of Inspector General is alerting you to a continuing fraud scam involving unsolicited telephone contact of taxpayers by persons claiming to be representatives of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) demanding payment of taxes. The caller will either 1) aggressively claim the victim owes federal taxes, or 2) inform the victim the federal government owes them a tax refund. In the former instance, the imposter demands payment to be made immediately via the use of a credit card, debit card or prepaid card. In the latter instance, the imposter requests personal financial information from the victim in order to "process" the tax refund. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has identified approximately 1,100 victims who have lost an estimated $5 million from these scams.

The PBGC employees and pension participants are encouraged not to fall victim to this scam and offers these avoidance suggestions:

How does the IRS usually contact individuals about tax matters?
The IRS will not initially contact you by phone, but rather through official correspondence sent through the mail. A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and urging immediate payment. Also, the IRS...

  • Never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone.
  • Never insists that taxpayers use a specific payment method to pay tax obligations
  • Never requests immediate payment over the telephone and will not take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation. Taxpayers usually receive prior notification of IRS enforcement action involving IRS tax liens or levies.
  • Never initiates contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.
  • Never asks for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts.

What are some other characteristics of these types of IRS telephone scams?

  • Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
  • Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim's Social Security number.
  • Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it's the IRS calling.
  • Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
  • Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
  • After threatening victims with jail time or driver's license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.
  • Insert malicious computer code into seemingly harmless file attachments. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the email to phishing@irs.gov.

Don't give out your bank account information to anyone you don't know.
Scammers pressure people to divulge their bank account information so that they can steal the money in the account. Always keep your bank account information confidential. Don't share it unless you are familiar with the caller and know why the information is necessary. Tell the caller you will call the IRS Hotline number to discuss your alleged tax issue, and then your local law enforcement agency as needed.

Phone numbers can deceive.
Some con artists use Internet Technology to disguise their area code in caller ID systems. Although it may look like they're calling from Washington, DC, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.

Take control of the calls you receive.
If you want to reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive, place your telephone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. To register online, visit donotcall.gov. To register by phone, call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236) from the phone number you wish to register.

If you believe you are, or have may have been, a victim of an IRS Tax Payment Demand / Tax Refund Telephone Scam, file a complaint with the IRS (as listed below) and your local law enforcement agency:

  • If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue, if there really is such an issue.
  • If you know you don't owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you've never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to TIGTA at 1.800.366.4484.
  • For more information or to report a scam, go to www.irs.gov and type "scam" in the search box.
  • If you've been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their "FTC Complaint Assistant" at FTC.gov. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.

For more information about reporting suspected fraud, waste, or abuse to the Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations, please contact: Special Agent in Charge Curtis Flood at ext. 3104, Special Agent Charles Jones at ext. 3315, or Special Agent Claressia Jones at ext. 3685. (TTY/TDD Users: 202-326-4115)

We also invite you to visit our website at http://oig.pbgc.gov.

Peter P. Paradis, Sr.
Assistant Inspector General for Investigations