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Reports From the FBI Suggest Law Enforcement Impersonation Scams Are On the Rise Worldwide!

The scammer calls the victim and identifies themselves as an official from law enforcement. The victim is then persuaded to give their personal information or transfer money to the officer because the victim’s relative needs medical care immediately or needs to be bailed out from jail.
May 17, 2022
Law Enforcer

Have you ever received a call unexpectedly from the police claiming they urgently need your information for a case? Well, there is a slight chance it could be a scam. Technology and, subsequently, security methods are becoming more advanced to combat fraud and protect users’ data. However, scammers have also devised new tactics to steal people’s data. Similarly, scammers also reuse old methods, for example, the impersonation of credible authorities or companies through emails, text messages, and phone calls.

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), more than 10,000 people became victims of impersonation scams resulting in a loss of $109,938,030 in 2020. The loss is significant because some people are more vulnerable to impersonation scams, such as the elderly or students. These groups might willingly give their personal information thinking the caller was from a trusted authority, but in reality, they give their data to scammers. While scammers only impersonated companies or organizations like banks before, a new form of scam has emerged – the law enforcement impersonation scam.

What is the Law Enforcement Impersonation Scam?

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The scammer calls the victim and identifies themselves as an official from law enforcement. The victim is then persuaded to give their personal information or transfer money to the officer because the victim’s relative needs medical care immediately or needs to be bailed out from jail. As a result, the scammer creates a sense of urgency to manipulate the victims’ emotions; hence, they might act hastily and transfer the requested money. However, later the victim will realize they have been scammed.

Moreover, scammers usually demand the requested money to be put on a prepaid card and then the card number to be sent to them. Due to the prepaid nature of the payment, it is difficult to recover your money once the scammer receives the card number. Similarly, scammers might also request payment through wire transfers or cash via mail. These two methods are also difficult to trace because wire transfers might be sent overseas while the money might be packaged or hidden to prevent getting caught. Furthermore, the scammer uses “spoofing” software that masks the phone number and displays it as if it’s from an actual police station. Consequently, the chances of people falling for this scam increase because the number seems legitimate.

1. FBI or DEA Hoaxes

Scammers might pose as well-known law enforcement agencies like the FBI and DEA apart from the local police. Emails sent by the scammer might contain links that, if clicked, download ransomware software on the user’s device. The software then displays a fake message from the FBI claiming you were involved in illegal activity on the web and must pay money to reassess your device’s files. Similarly, scammers might be engaged in DEA extortion scams that threaten you with arrest for illegal activities unless a fine is paid.

DO YOU SUSPECT THAT SOMEONE HAD SCAMMED YOU?

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2. Arrest Warrant Scam

Similar to the previous scam, you might be threatened with arrest for certain violations, such as unpaid traffic tickets, by the scammer. To prevent the arrest, you have to pay a heavy fine immediately. Moreover, the scammer posing as an official might request your credit card details, exposing your banking details and making you susceptible to identity theft.

3. Grandparents Scam

A scammer might pose as your grandchild in jail, and then their accomplice might pose as the law enforcement official who demands payment for your grandchild’s bail. Thus, elderly people easily fall victim to this scam due to the sense of urgency regarding their grandchild created by the scammer.

4. Debt Collection Scam

The scammer claims you owe them money previously taken out as a loan and threatens arrest if you fail to pay them. However, law enforcement agencies like the police are not supposed to be involved in such financial matters because it is a debt collector’s job. So if you are contacted by an officer regarding debt, it is a scam.

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The Government's Advice on Spotting These Scams

  • Receiving unsolicited calls, text messages, or emails asking for your personal information or to make payments 
  • Pressurized into transferring the money immediately or threatened with arrest if you fail to pay the money
  • Asked to transfer cash through untraceable methods like prepaid cards and wire transfers
  • Asked to send large amounts of money to catch criminals

Tips To Avoid Being a Victim of An Impersonation Scam

  • Be cautious when answering calls from unknown numbers, or don’t respond to them at all
  • Don’t give personal information or transfer money to unknown numbers or email addresses not in your contact list
  • Don’t open emails from anonymous email addresses or click on any links given in the emails
  • Do not meet up at unknown locations; instead, request to meet at the known offices of the authority, such as the police station.
  • If you receive calls about relatives being in an accident or in jail, confirm the information with your relatives first before acting hastily and sending money 
  • Request details for the hospital your relative is admitted to or the jail your relative is in. Call the hospital or police station respectively to confirm whether you are being scammed or not.
  • Ask the caller for their call back number or speak with a higher official to confirm the information regarding your relative.

Have you or your relative fallen victim to law enforcement impersonation scams? So what should you do next?

Reporting Impersonation Scams

You should report the phone number or email address and any other information you have on the scammer to the following authorities:

  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at reportfraud.ftc.gov/
  • Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) at fca.org.uk/contact
  • FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at ic3.gov

After filing your complaint, the authorities might be able to trace the scammer and recover your money for you. However, if they cannot do so, you can hire verified third-party companies that also offer services for recovering your money.

Also, click here to find more news and stories about different kind of scam

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