Scammers are constantly looking for new ways to steal personal information or money from innocent bystanders. The newest telephone scam has con artists posing as officials from the Social Security Administration, convincing people to drain their accounts and send money for “safekeeping.”

Here are some of the signs government impostors have used when posing as the IRS, DEA, Social Security Administration or even the local sheriff’s office, per NBC News Better:

  • We’re calling from the Social Security Administration because your account has been frozen or compromised.
  • This is the IRS calling and you owe us back taxes and are about to be sued or immediately arrested.
  • I’m with the FBI (or your local police department) and an arrest warrant has been issued because you failed to appear in court for jury duty.

“These people sound very convincing,” the Federal Trade Commission’s Monica Vaca told NBC News Better. “Their job is to make you feel fear, to make you feel panicked.”

According to a new FTC report, scammers are ramping up the plots to record highs. The FTC reported 46,600 scam complaints filed in May alone, and the total complaints for 2019 have already surpassed 200,000.

Since 2014, scammers have managed to swindle innocent people out of more than $450 million, according to the report.

NBC News Better goes into more detail about the newest Social Security scam, and how you can protect yourself from major losses:

Imposters Are Switching to Social Security Scams

Scammers are always looking for something new and fresh. The FTC’s complaint database clearly shows them moving on from impersonating the IRS to pretending to be with Social Security or Medicare.

From January to May, there were 65,000 complaints about Social Security Administration imposter scams and 20,000 involving Health and Human Services/Medicare. IRS scams had dropped to 4,500.

Most of these calls come from telephone boiler rooms in India, Baker told NBC News BETTER. By spoofing caller ID, they can make the phone display the number of the government agency they’re pretending to be calling from. This hi-tech deception makes their lie seem legit.

Susan, who lives in Loris, South Carolina, lost her life savings, $14,000, to a Social Security scam just a few weeks ago. Still embarrassed that she fell for the scam, Susan asked that we not use her last name.

The caller said Susan’s name and Social Security number had been found during a drug raid in Texas.

“He said I was going to be charged with drug trafficking and money laundering and because of forfeiture laws, the DEA could seize my money, so I was freaking out,” Susan told NBC News BETTER.

She could help her safeguard her money, the fraudster said, if she withdrew all her savings and sent it to the agency for safekeeping, until the criminal investigation was over. Susan was in such a panic that she followed his instructions.

The imposter stayed on the phone with her for more than three hours as she went to the bank and then prepared the shipment, constantly reminding her not to talk to anyone about what she was doing.

“I just can’t believe I fell for this,” Susan told me. “I’m having a hard time dealing with it. I was hoping to retire this year, but now I have nothing.”

Susan shared her story with NBC News BETTER because she wants others to know how persuasive these phone bandits are; that they can get you to do things that in hindsight, don’t make sense.

How to Protect Yourself From Phone Scams

If someone calls and claims to be with a government agency, no matter how official they seem, no matter how scary the situation sounds — hang up. The longer you stay on the line, the more likely you are to become a victim.

“Government agencies, including Social Security, IRS, and Medicare, don’t first make contact over the phone,” said Amy Nofziger, director of the AARP Fraud Watch Network. “If there’s a problem with your account, they will contact you by U.S. mail. Likewise, they will never call and threaten you with a lawsuit or arrest, if you don’t make an immediate payment.”

Another red flag: Government agencies will never instruct you to make an immediate payment via wire transfer or gift card.

“Gift cards are now the favorite way these scammers are asking to be paid,” said John Breyault, who runs the National Consumers League’s website. “Government agencies don’t accept payment via iTunes or Google Play or any other gift card. That’s the sure sign of a scam.”

Don’t trust a caller just because they know some of your personal information, Breyault cautioned in a recent fraud alert. “Sadly, due to numerous data breaches, we have received reports that fraudsters are providing victims with their SSN to build trust,” he writes.

You can report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission or, which shares this information with more than 200 law enforcement agencies.

If you feel the need to talk to someone call your local Better Business Bureau or the AARP FraudWatch Network (877-908-3360). Or contact the agency that supposedly called you. Look up the number on your own, don’t trust your caller ID or the number the caller may have given you.