On March 1, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) issued a fraud alert to warn citizens of recent reports that DHS telephone numbers have been used recently as part of a telephone scam across the country. Distressingly, scammers have been able to falsify information transmitted to a caller ID display to disguise an identity. Citizens should be vigilant regarding unexpected calls from numbers proclaiming to be associated with DHS or its affiliates.
The perpetrators of the scam identify themselves during the call as employees of “U.S. Immigration” or other government entities. They alter caller ID systems to make it appear that the call is coming from the DHS HQ Operator number (202-282-8000) or the DHS Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) number (202-401-1474). The scammers obtain or verify personally identifiable information from their victims through various tactics, including by telling individuals that they are the victims of identity theft and seek to “confirm” their identity. Disturbingly, the call scammers also threaten victims with arrest, posing as law enforcement representatives, unless they make payments to the scammers using a variety of methods.
In their statement, DHS highlighted the impossibility of these calls being genuine. "While we investigate the situation, we would like to remind the public that DHS never uses its HQ Operator or CRCL number to make outgoing calls of this nature," DHS said in a statement. Individuals receiving phone calls from these numbers should not provide any personal information. It continues to be perfectly safe to place calls to the DHS HQ Operator and CRCL numbers, and DHS officials may continue to be contacted by dialing the DHS HQ Operator number."
Anyone who believes they may have been a victim of this telephone spoofing scam is urged to call the DHS OIG Hotline (1-800-323-8603) or file a complaint online via the DHS OIG website www.oig.dhs.gov. You may also contact the Federal Trade Commission to file a complaint and/or report identity theft.