OPM warns of scam targeting federal annuitants

The Office of Personnel Management is warning federal employees and retirees about a scam targeting annuitants.

“The scammer threatens to end the annuitant’s retirement, threatens that a ‘magistrate’ will criminally prosecute, and demands an immediate payment. This is a government imposter scam — Do not send money,” wrote OPM’s Ken Zawodny, the associate director of Retirement Services, in a blog post. “Any communication of this type is NOT from an OPM official. OPM will not make such calls.”

Zawodny said the scammers may use real names and titles, and likely will know a lot about their targets, including personal information.

“The scammers may alter the caller ID to make it look like OPM is calling. Scammers may also attempt to use email to ‘phish’ for more information,” he wrote. “Finally, these imposters may leave an ‘urgent’ callback request. Don’t fall for it.”

Advertisement

OPM details five signs of a scam, including demanding payment immediately and requesting credit or debit card information over the phone or by email.

OPM recommended that if an annuitant gets a call, it should hang-up the phone and report the attempt to the agency’s inspector general office.

Scams targeting federal employees and retirees aren’t new. The IRS, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, the General Services Administration and many others have had to deal with imposters.

The Federal Trade Commission dedicated a web page to recognizing and avoiding being victimized by a government imposter scam.

“Federal government agencies and federal employees don’t ask people to send money for prizes or unpaid loans. Nor are they permitted to ask you to wire money or add money to a prepaid debit card to pay for anything,” the FTC stated.

This is the second time in as many years that OPM is dealing with a scam. After the 2015 massive data breach, the Homeland Security Department issued a warning to federal employees and retirees that DHS was aware of “suspicious domain names that may be used in phishing campaigns masquerading as official communication” from OPM or their identity protection firm.

The IRS faces the biggest threat from scammers, and have been working with the Justice and Homeland Security departments to combat the attempts at fraud. For the 2017 filing season, the IRS added new authentication and information sharing capabilities to make it harder to file a fake tax return.

But the opportunity for scammers to go after all federal employees, contractors and retirees has increased over the last decade.

In 2014, GSA told vendors on its schedules program that for two years scammers had been using spear phishing attacks that cost contractors more than $1.5 million.

In 2012, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service said e-mail scammers were targeting military service members, retirees and Defense Department civilian personnel who were receiving disability compensation from Veterans Affairs, and telling them they may be able to obtain more money from the Internal Revenue Service.

And most recently, the Army put out a request for information asking for a vendor to help find, monitor and remove imposter social media accounts.