NORTHGLENN, Colo. (KDVR) — The phone rings, or maybe you receive an email, saying there’s a warrant out for your arrest and the only way to avoid jail is to pay a fine. You know you haven’t committed any crimes, but the person on the phone is very convincing.
The Northglenn Police say this is a scam targeting area residents.
“They’re calling up folks, pretending to be a member of a law enforcement agency,” Northglenn Police Detective Sgt. Scott McNeilly told FOX31.
The Federal Trade Commission reports impostor scams top their list of the most common, followed by online shopping and fake lottery prize schemes. The biggest reported losses were through bank transfers — $1.5 billion — and cryptocurrency — $1.4 billion.
McNeilly told the FOX31 Problem Solvers that scammers use high-pressure scare tactics to intimidate victims into giving them Bitcoin or gift cards or into sending them money transfers through Zelle, Venmo or Cash App.
“Once your money’s gone via Bitcoin, or these other avenues, it’s very hard to retrieve,” McNeilly said.
Whether they are defined as impersonation, romance or health care schemes, many scams originate overseas.
FOX31 spoke to a reformed scammer based in Nigeria who now works for reverse image search website SocialCatfish.com. He educates consumers about red flags associated with scams and provides advice about how to guard against them.
“It made me a lot of money. It paid me about $50,000,” the former scammer said.
He explained that many living in poor regions operate scams to make a living, but he wants to help people rather than hurt them.
“I really felt bad for what I did. I was wondering, what if this happened to my mom, you know?” he said.
He warned against engaging with anyone who uses social media or other means to make random contact.
“You need to look out for people who don’t show their face on video calls,” he said.
When it comes to police impersonators, law enforcement advises residents to check out any claim by contacting the department through a phone number you’ve looked up for yourself.
Scammers will also use the names of real police officers, which are easily found online.
“All of our police department’s information is online. There’s a list of who works here,” McNeilly said.
Scammers can also spoof numbers in case you want to compare them, that’s why it’s important to contact police on your own.
McNeilly said you should look up the number for the police department yourself and call to verify if any warrants are actually on your record.
Police will never ask you to pay any fines with Bitcoin, gift cards or apps.
Scammers even impersonate the Federal Trade Commission, Internal Revenue Service and Xcel Energy, so stop, think and verify information before acting.
The FBI provides information about how to identify and avoid scams and ways to report crime and fraud. https://www.fbi.gov/how-we-can-help-you/safety-resources/scams-and-safety/