February 24, 2024

CALDWELL, Texas (KBTX) – A Caldwell woman nearly fell victim to online scammers claiming she could receive a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Bess Potter thought she was chatting with a mutual Facebook friend when their conversation took a turn. He began asking her if she had heard about a grant the DHHS was offering.

One of the messages read, “I’ve got benefits from this program when I applied, do you know how to apply?”

Before she knew it, she was instructed to reach out to Scott Rogers on Facebook, supposedly an agent from the DHHS.

Online scammers posing as federal agents to collect personal information(KBTX)

“I did click on that because I do need glasses,” Potter said, “I’m blind up close, nearly.”

The agent started pressuring her to share personal information, such as her address, phone number, and even photos of herself. She said she quickly caught on that the grant wasn’t legitimate.

She made sure to tell them.

Online scammers posing as federal agents to collect personal information(KBTX)

Potter said they responded by assuring her it was “very real” and a “legitimate program.” Shortly after, she blocked the two profiles and reported what had happened to DHHS.

A spokesperson for DHHS said they are aware of this scam, and encourage anyone who thinks they may have been scammed to reach out to them directly.

The Better Business Bureau said in a statement that this isn’t the first time they’ve heard about this scam, either. Their advice is to ignore social media messages from accounts claiming to be government entities.

“What is the bad thing about it is they absolutely go after the elderly because they figure that they can get to them,” Potter said.

She hopes that sharing her story will prevent someone else from falling into a scammer’s trap.

Some of the more prevalent government impostor scams involve the IRS, Social Security Administration, or local law enforcement to coerce a victim into handing over payment or data to avoid prosecution. These are common scare tactics, and they confuse consumers. BBB receives constant reports about scam attempts utilizing well known government agencies to extort victims.

Once your information is compromised, criminals can create financial accounts, lines of credit, medical profiles, or file phony tax returns in your name.

If you are receiving unsolicited emails, texts, social media messages or phone calls claiming to be a government entity requesting information, don’t respond and don’t feel pressure to pay immediately. Take the time to research on your side and reach out to the agency directly on your own, using the proper channels. Almost all requests for information will come through U.S. Postal Service mail.

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