RICHMOND – The Virginia State Police has recently been alerted to an alarming increase in phone scams targeting seniors and, especially, convicted sex offenders. The consistent theme among these scams has been phone fraudsters threatening people into paying hundreds of dollars in gift cards to the caller.
One popular scam making its rounds across the Commonwealth is where the caller says a relative has been arrested and incarcerated, and is in need of a substantial amount of money in order to be released from jail. The phone fraudster can be very convincing by providing extensive personal information (i.e., date of birth, address, social security number, other family members’ names) about the relative who is supposedly in need of help.
The Virginia State Police are also getting numerous calls from convicted sex offenders in the Northern Virginia region who are being told there is a warrant out for their arrest. The sex offender is advised not to call the Virginia State Police and that the only way to adjudicate the warrant is by paying off a fine. Virginia law prohibits unlawful use of the information provided on the Virginia Sex Offender Registry for purposes of intimidating or harassing an individual listed on the registry. Willful violation shall be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.
With both cons, the scammer provides instruction on how the payment should be submitted, usually through an “eGift” cash card or similar payment to a specified account or name given by the caller. The scammer will often pressure, threaten and be verbally abusive in order to intimidate the victim into complying with the scammer’s demands.
The scammer will often manipulate caller ID, which is known as “spoofing,” to make the number appear to come from a nearby state police office or a local police or sheriff’s office. These scam artists use pre-paid phones and many times are not even in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred, making their apprehension difficult.
If you receive such a call, hang up and contact your local law enforcement agency or the Virginia State Police. Complaints can also be made to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which works with other law enforcement agencies to bring scam artists to justice and put an end to unfair and misleading business practices. If you have a complaint, file it online or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.