The FBI and U.S. Marshals are both issuing phone scam warnings citing an uptick in scams that try to trick the person picking up the phone into believing they’re in big trouble with the government.
These scammers use a variety of tactics. Sometimes they say the issue is unpaid taxes. Sometimes they claim you have a warrant or that the FBI has detected child pornography on your device. A new favorite is that you’re in big trouble for having missed a summons to jury duty.
The one thing all of these scams have in common is that they say you can get out of trouble by paying a fine. Normally, you’d have to head on down to the courthouse to pay a fine, but these crooks say you’ll need to use a prepaid debit card, some type of gift card, or wire them the money. You won’t even have to mail the gift cards. Just read them the numbers off the back over the phone.
Of course, this is a total scam. And once they’ve got that gift card number your money is gone forever. Often times these thieves have the kind of information that makes it seem real such as the names of local law enforcement personnel or the location of the courthouse. They also use spoofing technology to make it appear as if the phone call is coming from the phone number of the actual government agency.
But here’s the thing, no government agency is ever going to ask for your credit card number over the phone. They certainly aren’t going to ask you to pay in gift cards. Real government agencies don’t need your personal information. They already have it.
These crooks are counting on your fear response clicking into overdrive and clouding your ability to think. Don’t fall for it. Hang up. If these crooks target you, report them to your local FBI office and file a consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.