The FBI Washington Field Office has seen a recent increase in law enforcement impersonation phone calls. In this scam, fraudulent callers posing as local or federal law enforcement officers threaten to arrest the victim if money isn’t sent. The callers will often “spoof,” or fake, their phone numbers so the call appears to be coming from a local police station or federal law enforcement office on the recipient’s caller ID.
These calls are fraudulent. Any legitimate law enforcement officer will not demand cash or gift cards from a member of the public. The FBI defines this type of scam as government impersonation fraud, in which criminals impersonate government officials in an attempt to collect money. The criminals often threaten to extort victims with physical or financial harm or the release of sensitive data. These scammers are becoming more sophisticated and organized in their approach, are technologically savvy, and often target young persons and the elderly.
To protect yourself from falling victim to this scam, be wary of answering phone calls from numbers you do not recognize. Do not send money to anybody that you do not personally know and trust. Never give out your personal information, including banking information.
According to the Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3), 10,978 people nationwide reported being victims of government impersonation scams in 2018, with losses totaling more than $64,000,000.
Anyone who feels they were the victim of this or any other online scam should report the incident immediately using the IC3 website at www.ic3.gov. More information about government impersonation schemes and other online fraud schemes can be found at https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-fraud-schemes.