Impersonating Authority – Two Police-Based Scams To Be Wary Of
Scammers have always been creative, using whatever ruse they can come up with to trick or pressure their targets into paying up. IRS scams are nothing new, but some of these criminals have taken things a step further and begun to pose as a different kind of authority figure – law enforcement.
In fact, two different law enforcement scams have been making the rounds. Keep reading to learn what they are, and how they operate.
Law Enforcement Scam #1 – Phony Bail Requests
When your phone rings and the caller ID informs you that it’s coming from your local police department, odds are you’re going to answer. Once you do, there is a chance the person on the other end of the line will tell you that a family member or friend has been arrested, and they’ve asked the police to contact you to arrange for their bail.
You might have a cousin who you wouldn’t be that surprised to learn has gotten into some trouble, and the call is coming from a real police number, so you ignore the warning bells going off in your head and continue to talk to the “officer”. That’s when you’re told to pay the bail money by loading it onto a prepaid card and giving the officer the card number.
This is a major read flag. A prepaid card is just as untraceable as cash, and you have no way of getting it back once you realize that you’ve been lied to. Thanks to spoofing tools, a scammer can easily make it seem like they’re calling from any number they choose – including a police station.
Many people are willing to listen to law enforcement with few questions asked, but this is one scenario in which you should be asking a lot of questions. Get in touch with your local department by calling their non-emergency number to confirm the story you’ve been given before you agree to hand over any money. Bail payments are made through much more official channels than a prepaid card.
Law Enforcement Scam #2 – Police Warrant Scam
Yet another spin on the phone scam involves criminals once again posing as the police to request a payment from unsuspecting victims. In this version, the “officer” is calling to inform you that there is a warrant out on you, and you need to pay a fine to avoid jail time. You’re then told to meet the officer in a public place, like a shopping mall, to pay thousands of dollars in imaginary fines.
There are several red flags with this scenario. First, warrants are served in person, never over the phone. Official and detailed documentation is needed here, and is presented to the suspect on paper before any action can be taken. Second, law enforcement will never ask you to meet at a random location to hand over a cash payment.
How Can You Avoid Falling For One Of These Scams?
No matter what tactics a scammer uses, you can keep out of harms way by keeping a few basic rules in mind:
- Never agree to meet a stranger to turn over a demanded payment, regardless of where they ask you to meet or what reassurances they offer
- Never give personal information out over the phone, especially to someone who should already have that information. If they need to “confirm” things like credit card, banking, or social insurance numbers, they will not do so over the phone or via email
- Never hesitate to make a call of your own to follow up on a request that seems odd. You won’t face consequences for doing your do diligence or asking questions
- Report any suspicious calls to the appropriate authorities. They may be able to keep the scammer that contacted you from harming anyone else
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