Scammers have been posing as law enforcement officers for years, but current technology makes the scheme more convincing.
Several consumers recently reported phony debt collection calls from alleged BCI agents or other law enforcement officials within the Attorney General’s Office. The calls are scams — no one from the Attorney General’s Office will threaten you demanding that you pay a debt — but phony calls can be believable.
For example, a Delaware County consumer received a call from someone claiming to be from the Attorney General’s Office. The caller told the consumer she would be arrested within 45 minutes if she did not pay the $1,300 she supposedly owed on a payday loan. The caller told the consumer to buy a prepaid money card to pay the debt. Fortunately, a store employee stopped the consumer before she purchased the card, so she did not lose money.
Another consumer was not so lucky. She received a call from the “Law Enforcement Bureau of Criminal Investigation” and was told she owed $536.48 on a payday loan. Because the consumer was threatened with arrest, she bought a prepaid card and gave the scammer the card’s number. She lost her money.
Although the imposter phone scam is not new, current technology can make the ploy more convincing. For instance, scammers can “spoof” or disguise the number that appears on an individual’s caller ID. The call may appear to be coming from a local government entity with a local area code, but in reality, it could be coming from a scammer in another state or another country.
In Greene County, Clerk of Courts Terri A. Mazur recently warned residents that scammers were cloning (or spoofing) the Clerk of Courts’ phone number. When consumers received one of the scam calls, the court’s phone number appeared on their caller ID.
In one case, a Greene County resident received a call and saw the Clerk of Courts’ phone number on his caller ID. When he answered the phone, the caller demanded that he pay money or risk being arrested. In the background, he heard the caller saying, “I’m talking to him now, so don’t go to arrest him.” In reality, the call was a scam.
If you receive a call from someone claiming to be a government official and that person is threatening to arrest or harm you, it is likely a scam. Follow these tips to protect yourself:
Remember that the Attorney General’s Office will not call and threaten to arrest you.
Don’t trust the number that appears on your caller ID. It may be a spoofed phone number.
Don’t give out personal or financial information to anyone who contacts you unexpectedly.
When in doubt, hang up and call a number that you know to be legitimate, such as the Attorney General’s Help Center, 800-282-0515.
If you are receiving debt collection calls, ask the caller to send written verification of the debt. If you don’t receive verification, you likely do not owe the debt.
To learn more, or to report a potential scam, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov