Have you received a phone call letting you know a relative has been arrested and only you can spring them from jail, and it has to be done right now?
It was more than likely a scam.
The Virginia State Police has warned residents of Hampton Roads of what they term an alarming increase in scams aimed at taking money from vulnerable seniors and even convicted sex offenders, according to state police spokeswoman Sgt. Michelle Anaya.
The flim-flammers have called folks across the region and spun a tale that either a relative has been arrested and put in jail or a warrant is out for the victim’s arrest, Anaya said. The caller then tells the victim their relative will need a large amount of money to be released from jail.
In every case, the scammers may have confidential, personal information on the person they’re calling or calling about, according to Anaya. From birthdays to addresses, family members’ names and Social Security numbers, the caller will try to convince the victim the call is legitimate.
The caller will provide a victim with instructions on how to pay the large amount of money with electronic gift cards or debit cards, Anaya said. These methods of payment are hard, if not impossible to trace. Victims are pressured, threatened and abused to give up their money.
The phone calls are often spoofed with fake caller ID’s that indicate the call originated from a local law enforcement office, according to Anaya.
“These scam artists use pre-paid phones and many times are not even in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred, making their apprehension difficult,” Anaya said in an email.
Law enforcement will never call to ask you to pay for a fine or for a warrant, according to Anaya.
If you receive one of these scam calls, let your police department or sheriff’s office know, and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
For more information on phone scams and to contact the FTC go to bit.ly/scamcalls23185 or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.
Non-emergency phone numbers for local law enforcement are as follows:
Williamsburg: 757-220-233; James City County: 757-253-1800; and York County: 757-890-3630
Roberts can be reached at 757-604-1329, by email at email@example.com and on Twitter @SPRobertsJr.