Scam Alert: Police Calling? It Could Be This New Scam

October 21, 2013 Updated Oct 21, 2013 at 5:19 PM EDT

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Scam Alert: Police Calling? It Could Be This New Scam

October 21, 2013 Updated Oct 21, 2013 at 5:19 PM EDT

Scammers have a new disguise just in time for Halloween.

According to a news release from the Better Business Bureau:

Con artists are taking advantage of caller ID spoofing technology to pose as local sheriff's offices. They are calling residents and demanding they pay nonexistent fines.

Here's how the Scam Works:

The phone rings. Caller ID says the number is the local sheriff's office, so you answer. The "sheriff" tells you there's a warrant out for your arrest. But you can pay a fine in order to avoid criminal charges. Of course, these "police" don't take credit cards; only a money order or pre-paid debit card will do.

What's going on here? Scammers are using a computer program that changes the number recipients see on their caller ID. This is known as spoofing. The scam is popping up all around the country, with scammers spoofing different numbers depending on the victim's location.

Victims have reported that scammers' trickery doesn't end with faking a phone number. Some reports say that scammers used the names of specific local police officers. Others said the con artists had personal information about the victims.

What to Do if the "Sheriff" Calls:

    Don't wire any money. The police will not ask for payment over the phone, especially by money order or prepaid debit card.

    Just hang up and don't call back. It is tempting to get the last word, but you may end up giving scammers information they can use later.

    Call the real police and tell them what happened. If you were targeted, so were others in your area. Help the local authorities get the word out about the scam.

Never give out your personal information. Caller ID spoofing makes it very easy for callers to pretend to be someone else. Scammers have also posed as immigration authorities and representatives of utilities companies. Just be very skeptical of anyone who calls asking for money or personal information.

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