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Security & privacy

Police calling? Hang up if you get this call

You’re vulnerable to scams if you have a phone (even a regular old landline). That’s right. Even an old-fashioned voice call is still a viable option for crooks well into the digital age.

Sometimes a scam will start as something else, such as a text message or email, which lures the victim into a phone call. You might get a message about an order you didn’t place. A phone number is included so you can call and set things straight. This will lead you right to the crook. Tap or click here to check out this type of scam.

When a bad actor impersonates a known or trusted entity to trick you into giving them what they want, it’s called vishing or voice phishing. They can pretend to be a company or service you use or even law enforcement. The latter is particularly devious, as people tend to take a call from the police more seriously.

Here’s the backstory

The Goochland County Sheriff’s Office is warning residents to be wary of phone calls that seemingly are coming from the police. According to a Facebook post, recipients of these calls are told they missed a court appearance and need to go to the Richmond City department to verify their signature.

People who answered these calls said the caller had their full name and address, plus the callback number was legitimate. The Sheriff’s Office said that it does not make these types of phone calls.

A similar type of scam is being reported by the Lake County IL Sheriff’s Office. On September 21, a Facebook post from the department warned of a caller telling recipients that they missed a court date and needed to provide payment or personal information.

You’re not under arrest

On October 3, the Juneau Police Department posted a warning to its Facebook page telling residents that someone is calling people while posing as Lieutenant Eriksen and Captain Mercer from the department.

Scammers are claiming that the recipient has outstanding warrants and needs to pay up or they will be arrested. They demand the recipient purchase gift cards and provide the card numbers to them on the phone.

The thieves go so far as to ask the victim to verify the gift cards with the Department of Treasury and mail them in. Of course, fake contact information is provided for this purpose.

How to avoid falling victim

No police department will call you and ask for money, especially in the form of gift cards. If you receive such a call, hang up and contact the police department in question to report the scam.

Also, never give out personal or financial information over the phone. While crooks can sometimes spoof legitimate numbers, confirm the department’s phone number before calling by looking it up to make sure you call the actual number.

In addition to reporting the incident to your police department, report it to the FTC at reportfraud.ftc.gov.

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