FBI Chicago
Special Agent Siobhan Johnson
(312) 829-1199
December 18, 2020

FBI Chicago Warns of Government Impersonation Scams in the Chicago Area

Emmerson Buie Jr., Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Field Office, announced today that the FBI is aware of a recent wave of scams in which callers identify themselves as special agents with the FBI’s Chicago Field Office to target the bank accounts of unsuspecting citizens. The FBI is asking the public to remain vigilant when receiving unsolicited phone calls and e-mails.

Scammers employ many different techniques to add an air of legitimacy to these calls. They may engage in “spoofing” of the FBI-Chicago telephone number: (312) 421-6700. Call spoofing occurs when a caller disguises their phone number and/or name to convince a victim that they are interacting with a trusted source. The victim’s caller ID may show FBI-Chicago as the caller, but it is just an illusion. Victims could be speaking with a caller anywhere in the world.

Government impersonators may claim to be FBI employees to intimidate law-abiding citizens into following orders. Scammers will fraudulently claim to be a special agent, a supervisory special agent, or even the special agent in charge. Perpetrators may purposely select the name of a real FBI employee from the official website. Victims that subsequently attempt to double-check the employee’s existence and title using the FBI website can be mistakenly reassured. The public should remember that even if a caller provides the name and title of an employee shown on fbi.gov, that is no guarantee that the listed agent is actually on the other end of the call.

Scam callers may attempt to rush victims to avoid negative repercussions like arrest and prison. Often, victims are advised:

  • Their Social Security number has been “frozen,” and the FBI will arrest them if they do not make a payment.
  • Their computer has been compromised, and the FBI needs their assistance to catch the criminal. Victims will then be directed to transfer large sums of their own money to help catch the criminal.

With some basic knowledge, the public can prevent this scam. The FBI will never:

  • Threaten you with arrest if you do not pay us. You cannot wire a “settlement” to avoid arrest.
  • Ask you to use large sums of your own money to help catch a criminal.
  • Ask you for wire transfers or gift cards.
  • Call about “frozen” Social Security numbers or to coordinate inheritances.

Scams impersonating the FBI and other federal agencies are a persistent problem and also occur via e-mail in addition to telephone calls. Common hallmarks of a scam e-mail include misspellings, missing words, and incorrect grammar. Fraudulent e-mails may give the appearance of legitimacy by using pictures of the FBI Director and the FBI seal and letterhead.

The FBI is charged with protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution of the United States, a mission that we take seriously. Like many federal agencies, we often request the public’s assistance to identify violent criminals, seek witness statements, or investigate critical tips. Members of the public seeking to confirm that they have been contacted by an actual FBI employee are encouraged to call FBI-Chicago at (312) 421-6700 and ask to be connected directly. Our call center is staffed around the clock by employees trained to recognize common scams.

The FBI recommends that members of the public who have been victimized take the following steps:

  • Contact their financial institution and local law enforcement immediately.
  • File a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.IC3.gov, regardless of dollar loss.
  • Monitor IC3.gov consumer alerts and follow @FBIChicago on Twitter to stay up to date on the latest cyber scams.