From the likes of Washington to Kansas and even all the way to Florida, no state in the U.S. has been an exception to the “Police Officer” scam.
Here’s an example of how the scam works: a police imposter will call an unknowing victim and inform them that there is a warrant out for their arrest unless they pay THEM a ridiculous amount that is owed on a loan or ticket.
Unfortunately, victims may not even have loans or outstanding debt, but because police officers are a symbol of authority, scammers use both our sense of trust and fear to pull a fast one over our heads!
Impersonating a police officer can hold a hefty fine and, depending on what state you live in, it can be considered a felony or misdemeanor.
So why would anyone risk five or more years in jail and thousands in fines? To a scammer it’s easy cash! Targeting unknowing citizens, especially the elderly, is worth the risk for any scammer.
Here are a few other cop scams you should keep an eye out for, and how to deal with a scammer if they’ve targeted you. Remember, it’s important to inform older friends and family so they don’t get swindled for their hard earned cash too:
Help Grandma, I’m in Jail!
Targeting the elderly, scammers pretend to be an officer calling about their grandchild who’s just been arrested and needs cash immediately to set bail. To avoid this sticky situation:
•Educate yourself on the current phone scams targeting senior citizens.
•Hang-up if you are being pressured to make payments to a so-called officer.
•Never wire money requested over the phone.
•Contact family members to verify if a family member is really in need.
You may get calls that ask for donations to support hardworking police officers and firefighters, but before you write that donation check to a fundraiser, there a few things the FTC would like you to consider:
•Simply having “police” or “firefighter” in an organization name doesn’t mean they are actually members of the group.
•Scammers may claim they have local ties to your local police or firefighters, but it doesn’t mean any of the contributions will go towards them. Make sure that the representative is able to provide you with written information of the program before you donate.
•Contact your local police or firefighter station to confirm what charities they are directly working with before making donations.
This is the FBI!
Scammers don’t always claim to be police. Instead, a number of scams are connected to student loans, sales of prescription drugs, or engaging in illegal online activity. These scams have even been connected to possible arrests from the DEA and FBI. Don’t be tricked by these scare tactics and be aware that the FBI and DEA will never make direct calls to citizens requesting money.
If you do find yourself in this type of situation, remember to:
•Never give out your personal information.
•Never make payments to third-party institutes.
•Do your research. Scammers are using your lack of knowledge, so before you believe what you’re being told, be aware of what scams are out there.
•File a complaint through the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center if you believe you’ve been victimized.
Whether it be the police, firefighters, FBI, or any type of authoritative organization contacting you, if you feel wary about the call, take caution. Remember the golden rule of thumb that will save you a lot of grief and money in your pocket: authority figures will NEVER contact individuals directly for payment of a possible crime.