Scammers Impersonate the Police
We know scammers are out there, impersonating the authorities and conjuring up different schemes to fool people into giving them money. They might say they’re calling from the IRS because you owe taxes. Or claim they’re from the FTC, calling to help you recover money lost to a scammer. But now we’re hearing about a new ploy: scammers are impersonating the police! That takes some chutzpah, huh? Here’s how it works.
You get a phone call. Someone you care about is in jail and, they say, you need to pay up to bail him out. The scam-detecting radar in your head immediately goes off. You’re skeptical – but the caller ID says the call is from the police department. And, let’s be honest, your nephew is a knucklehead and you can totally imagine him being arrested. So, you keep listening.
The caller tells you to put money on a prepaid card and give him the card number. Now your scam-detecting radar is going off the charts. You know that police departments — and the federal government, for that matter — don’t tell people to pay with prepaid cards. You also know using a prepaid card is like paying cash — once the money is gone, you can’t get it back.
“But what about the caller ID?” you wonder. In fact, what seems like reliable information about the source of a call isn’t so reliable anymore. Scammers can rig caller ID to look like they’re calling from the police department. Or, really, anywhere — even your own number. Don’t rely on caller ID. It’s not foolproof. Scammers can easily spoof it to try to gain your trust. If it looks like the police are calling, look up the non-emergency phone number (hint: it’s not 9-1-1) and call to find out if the story is legit. You’ll soon learn it’s a scam.
Report the imposter to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. Select the category “Scams and Rip-offs” then “Impostor Scams”.