Individuals posing as federal officials are using phone calls to pull a scam, U.S. Marshals warned the public Thursday.
The impostors call people and tell them to pay a fine to avoid arrest.
The suspects claim to be U.S. Marshals, court officers or other law enforcement officials to collect a fine for failing to report for jury duty or other offenses, according to U.S. Marshals.
Individuals tell victims they can avoid arrest by purchasing a prepaid debit card such as a Green Dot card or gift card and read the card number over the phone to satisfy the fine.
“These are not victimless crimes,” said Southern District of California U.S. Marshal Steve Stafford, “People have lost thousands of dollars to these scammers. This can be devastating, especially during the holidays.”
U.S. Marshals urge the public to report the calls to their local U.S. Marshals Service office and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
“The information people report to the FTC can help law enforcement investigate and track down the perpetrators,” Stafford said.
The FTC has the ability to detect patterns of fraud from the information collected and share that data with law enforcement, according to U.S. Marshals.
Scammers provide information like badge numbers, names of actual law enforcement officials and federal judges and courthouse addresses to sound credible.
They also spoof their phones numbers so the Caller ID will display the phone number from a court or a government agency.
“While these callers may sound legitimate, we urge people to question their validity,” said Stafford. “The easiest way to do this is to call the clerk of the court’s office of the U.S. District Court of Southern California and verify the court order. If an order does not exist, someone just tried to swindle you out of your hard-earned cash.”
To avoid becoming a victim, U.S. Marshals remind the public they never ask for credit, debit or gift card numbers, wire transfers, bank routing numbers for any purpose.
Individuals should also avoid divulging personal or financial information to unknown callers.