‘Pay or go to jail’: Law enforcement scams on the rise

Impostor scams cost Americans $2.6 billion in 2022.
Imposter scams cost victims billions of dollars every year.
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 3:07 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Impostor scams are now the most common form of fraud in the United States. It’s when a scammer pretends to be someone or something else to steal money or information.

A common scam is going around in which a crook pretends to be law enforcement, preying on people’s fear of the law.

Here’s how it works: A victim is contacted by someone pretending to be an officer claiming the victim either didn’t show up for jury duty or is tied to some kind of illegal activity. The victim is told they will be taken to jail unless they pay a fine.

The FBI put out alerts warning that scammers go as far as texting or emailing fake badges to trick potential victims.

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So, what do you do? Hang up and call the agency the caller claims to be representing. The FBI can confirm what’s real and what’s a scam.

“The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office will never call you, that goes for any law enforcement agency,” said Nick Wills with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office. “If we need to contact you and we’re not meeting you somewhere, we’re going to go through [USPS]. We’re not going to call you. We’re not a collection agency, so we’re not looking to get money from you.”

Impostor scams cost Americans $2.6 billion in 2022. But they often have two major things in common: a false sense of urgency, and requesting payment through a non-traceable method, namely, money transfer apps or prepaid cards.

“If someone’s like, ‘you’re going to be in trouble if you do this. But the only way you can pay us is with a prepaid card.’ That’s red flag number one,” said Wills.

But if you do fall victim to an impostor scam, end communication immediately, contact your bank and protect your accounts, document your communication and transactions with the scammer, and notify law enforcement.

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