Scammers posing as law enforcement officers are using a phone scheme to swindle consumers in several counties, according Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh.
The thieves are calling potential victims and claiming to be from the police department or sheriff’s office. They tell the target s/he has missed jury duty, or failed to appear as a witness in a court case, and threaten them with arrest.
Consumers have reported that the scammers offer one of several different ways to resolve the situation, all of which involve a payment:
- The victim must appear in person, usually at a legitimate law enforcement location, but are met by the scammer, who demands payment (usually in the form of a gift card, prepaid cash card or wire payment) to settle the issue.
- The victim is told that going to law enforcement would mean their arrest, and must wire a payment (in one case, they were told to use a MoneyPak card).
- The victim may be told there is a gag order on the case and they aren’t permitted to talk about it, and may be asked to scan and send a copy of their driver’s license.
“Only one person has to fall for this scam for the thieves to potentially make hundreds of dollars,” said Attorney General Frosh in a press release. “These scammers are very good at persuading anyone that they are in trouble with the law. But remember that legitimate law enforcement officers will NEVER ask you to pay a fine by wire transfer or any other rapid money transfer.”
Frosh’s office recommends taking the following steps if a consumer receives a similar call:
- “Hang up immediately
- “Do NOT call the number shown on the caller ID
- “Do NOT send your driver’s license information to anyone who calls claiming to be a law enforcement officer, and
- “Report the suspicious call to the Office of the Attorney General or the Federal Trade Commission.”
If a consumer has paid any money or revealed any personal information in a similar situation, the AG’s office recommends these steps:
- “Contact the company that facilitated the funds transfer to see if you can stop the payment.
- “Contact the Attorney General’s Identity Theft Unit to learn how to protect yourself if the scammers try to use your personal information.
- “Contact the local law enforcement department to report the theft.
- “Report the incident to the Office of the Attorney General or the Federal Trade Commission.”
The office maintains a Consumer Protection Hotline at 410.528.8662 that consumers can call with questions about this or any other scam.
Image by Alachua County on Flickr.