Fraud watch: It’s not the government calling

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If you get a call from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General hotline, don’t answer.

The government is not calling you — but scammers are.

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network reported that the hotline phone number is being used in a scam.

Scammers pretend they’re hotline employees. They have the technology to make caller ID look like the hotline numbers: 1-800-447-8477, or 1-800-HHS-TIPS.

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The scammers may use various tactics to “verify” a person’s personal information, which they can use to steal money from bank accounts or for other fraudulent activity.

The Office of Inspector General said it does not use its hotline telephone number to make calls; it’s for consumers to report fraud.

“We are actively investigating this matter and intend to have the perpetrators prosecuted,” the agency website states.

But experts warn prosecution is tough, and preventing scams is the best way for consumers to protect themselves.

The Office of Inspector General warns to never provide Social Security numbers, dates of birth, credit card information, driver’s license numbers, bank account information or your mother’s maiden name.

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills recommends letting unknown calls go to voice mail.

“You don’t have to answer the phone,” she said.

For more information on fraud prevention, contact the AARP Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.

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