If You Get This Call From the Police, Hang Up Immediately, Officials Warn
You or a loved one could easily fall victim to this convincing new scam.
If you think you're getting a call from the police, odds are you're going to answer it. You might fear the worst, like an accident involving a loved one, but a call about criminal matters can be more anxiety-inducing—even if you haven't done anything wrong. Unfortunately, a new phone scam is capitalizing on these fears and could put you and your finances at risk. Read on to find out what fraudulent phone call you need to be aware of, and how to know when to hang up.
READ THIS NEXT: If You're Over 60, the FBI Has a Major New Warning for You.
Local and federal agencies have been on high alert lately.
Legitimate messages from police are worth heeding. Just last week, police in Boston issued a safety warning following an increase in drink spiking at bars. Police asked all patrons to make sure drinks are never left unattended and always cover drinks when heading to the bathroom. The Boston Police Department recommended using different "creative inventions" that keep your drink covered, which are available for purchase on sites like Amazon, Walmart, and Etsy.
But scams run rampant, so you'll want to be sure any message you get is the real deal. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently issued a public service announcement (PSA) about elder fraud, which targets those over the age of 60 and leads to nearly $3 billion in annual losses. As part of the PSA, William Webster, former director of the FBI, urged senior citizens and their caregivers to be vigilant when it comes to identifying these schemes, as he was a victim of one such scam in 2014. Now, another scam has made headlines, with scammers trying to trick you by posing as law enforcement officers.
Scammers are using jury duty as a ploy.
Many of us dread being called in for jury duty, but while being forced to do your civic duty can be inconvenient, there is something many of us fear even more: getting scammed. Authorities are now warning about a new scheme in which fraudsters pose as police officers.
According to reporting by CBS19 News, the Albemarle County Sheriff's Office said that scammers will call and claim they are "Sergeant Davis," telling you that you owe a fine after failing to appear for jury duty. The police department, located in Charlottesville, Virginia, warns that the caller will assure the victim if they pay the fine, they will not be arrested. The scammer will try to convince you to make an electronic payment or purchase a prepaid debit or gift card. They will often walk you through the process while they have you on the phone, the outlet said.
These scams can be very convincing.
Some of us have unfortunately fallen victim to scams in the past, largely because scammers do a great job of appearing legitimate. The same can be said for the latest scam, in which callers provide the real name and location of the courthouse in question, as well as phone numbers, case numbers, and badge numbers, CBS19 reported.
"The people conducting this scam can be very convincing. They call their law-abiding victims and terrify them with threats of arrest and jail unless they pay up immediately," Sheriff Chan Bryant told the outlet.
Scammers have gotten so sophisticated that they can even "spoof" the sheriff's office phone number, meaning they fake the caller ID information that appears on your phone. However, the police department confirmed that this is not how you would be receiving information about jury duty or a potential arrest.
"The Albemarle County Sheriff's Office personally serves grand jury summons," Bryant said. "If you were scheduled to serve on a grand jury, you would have received paperwork delivered to your residence by the Sheriff's Office. If we have a warrant for your arrest, we will show up at your house, we will not give you a phone call. We do not contact citizens and demand payment or personal information by phone or email."
Police recommend hanging up immediately if you receive one of these calls.
These scams are not isolated to Virginia, with similar reports recently surfacing in North Dakota, Missouri, Florida, Montana, and Texas. In Ohio, these scams have allegedly been targeting teachers. Fraudsters call the school office directly and ask for a teacher by name, outlining the same warning about missed jury duty. According to reporting by Fox 8, one teacher lost a total of $2,000 as a result of the scam. Another scam in Norfolk, Virginia takes a different twist, where the scammer poses as a Norfolk Sheriff's Office employee and asks the victim to pay a fee that will get them dismissed from jury duty.
Across the board, officials recommend hanging up if you get a call like this. You can then call your local sheriff's department or police station directly to confirm that the call was not legitimate. In the event you or one of your loved ones have fallen victim to a similar scam, you should also file a report with the authorities.
According to the Albemarle County Sheriff's Office, you should always exercise caution before providing personal information over the phone. Put simply, if your gut tells you something is amiss, it's better to double-check and validate the caller before it's too late.