Fake Government Websites Collect Personal Identification and Fees

Criminals Host Fake Government Service Websites

Woman talking about ideas behind computer in office
FangXiaNuo / Getty Images

The internet can be hard to navigate for many. While there are many great services available online there are also many dangers as well. Many scammers will go to great lengths to trick unsuspecting web goers into giving up valuable information and even money. But there are ways to spot many of these tricks if you know what you're looking for. Here are some tips to keep yourself safe.

How Fake Government Websites Work 

Victims use a search engine to search for government services such as obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) or replacement social security card. The fraudulent criminal websites are the first to appear in search results, prompting the victims to click on the fraudulent government services website. 

The victim completes the required fraudulently posted forms for the government services they need. They then submit the form online, believing they are providing their personal identification to government agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration, or similar agency based on the service they need. 

Once the forms are completed and submitted, the fraudulent website usually requires a fee to complete the service requested. The fees typically range from $29 to $199 based on the government service requested. Once the fees are paid the victim is notified they need to send their birth certificate, driver’s license, employee badge, or other personal items to a specified address. The victim is then told to wait a few days to several weeks for processing. 

By the time the victim realizes it is a scam, they may have had extra charges billed to their credit/debit card, had a third-party designee added to their EIN card, and never received the service or documents requested. Additionally, all of their personally identifiable information data has been compromised by the criminals running the websites and can be used for any number of illicit purposes. The potential harm gets worse for those who send their birth certificate or other government-issued identification to the perpetrator.

Follow-up calls or e-mails to the perpetrator are normally ignored and many victims report the customer service telephone numbers provided are out of service.

The FBI recommends that people ensure they are communicating or requesting services/merchandise from a legitimate source by verifying the website. When dealing with government websites, look for the .gov domain instead of a .com domain (e.g. www.ssa.gov and not www.ssa.com).

What the FBI Recommends

Below are tips when using government services or contacting agencies online:

  • Use search engines or other websites to research the advertised services or person/company you plan to deal with.
  • Search the internet for any negative feedback or reviews on the government services company, their Web site, their e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, or other searchable identifiers.
  • Research the company policies before completing a transaction.
  • Be cautious when surfing the internet or responding to advertisements and special offers.
  • Be cautious when dealing with persons/companies from outside the country.
  • Maintain records for all online transactions.

If you suspect you are a victim of an Internet-related crime, you may file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.