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If You Get This Call from Police, Hang Up Immediately, Authorities Warn

It could put your personal information in the wrong hands.

When you receive a call from the police, it's only natural that you might be concerned. After all, police officers are frequently tasked with delivering bad news, whether they're informing you of a crime that took place in your neighborhood or reporting a death. However, that's not the only reason you might want to be hesitant about answering a call from the cops these days. A sophisticated new phone call con has scammers impersonating police officers—and if you answer the call, your personal information and financial data could be at risk. Read on to find out how to identify the scam and what you should do if you think you've been a target.

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If you get a call from the police about a missed court appearance, hang up.

young woman looking confused and looking at cell phone

While you may be eager to comply with the cops if they call you, doing so could mean you're serving up your personal information to scammers. According to ABC 8 News, a local affiliate in Virginia, the new con that's been going on begins when you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be a police officer. The Goochland County Sheriff's Department in Virginia reports that scammers claim you've failed to show up for a court appearance and will have to appear at the sheriff's office to confirm your signature.

"Please be advised that the Sheriff's Office will never call about an issue of this nature," the actual Goochland County Sheriff's Department says.

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The calls may appear to come from the police department on your caller ID.

woman receiving a phone call from emergency services while in her car
Shutterstock/Image Craft

It's not just the fear of what will happen if you fail to appear in court that might convince you to engage in a conversation with the caller.

The Goochland County Sheriff's Department reports that the scammers often appear to be calling from a number that is associated with the local police. However, the phone number has actually been spoofed by the scammer. As you've probably noticed from other scam calls lately, spoofing is the process by which individuals make calls appear as though they're coming from local numbers or ones associated with legitimate businesses or government agencies, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The caller may have personal information about you.

woman taking phone call while reading bills
Shutterstock/Juice Flair

To make themselves seem legitimate, the scammers may provide information about you, including your full name and address.

No matter how legitimate the call seems—or how much information they have about you—do not provide any additional details about yourself to the caller. The FCC warns that responding to any yes or no questions, entering a number on your phone as directed by the caller, or providing any personal details can put your information—and potentially your money—at risk.

If you think you've been a target of this scam, tell your local authorities.

young man in glasses making a call on his phone

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns that police scams may take several forms in addition to the one being perpetrated in Goochland County, including ones asking you to pay for missing jury duty, asking you to bail out a friend or family member, or saying that there's a warrant for your arrest and that you have to pay to avoid jail time.

If you think you may have received a call from someone impersonating a police officer, it's important that you first hang up and then report it. However, don't call back the number that just called you; search for your local police department's contact information and call that number instead. In addition to filing a report with your local police department, you can file a complaint with the FCC to help stop the scam.

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Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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