Bankruptcy trick, bail bond cancellation and phishing attempt among latest law enforcement scams: Internet Scambusters #696
The threat of some personal law enforcement action is enough to worry most of us - but it's even worse for those who have already tangled with the legal system.
In this week's issue, we explain how individuals who have filed for bankruptcy or who have been arrested and then released on bail are being targeted by scammers.
We also have a news alert about a bogus Social Security email that offers to help you "Get Protected" but in reality aims to rip you off.
Let's get started...
Scammers Cash-in on Fears of Law Enforcement
While we mostly think of the law enforcement as being a group of people who are there to protect us and ensure justice, scammers are also finding ways to twist that understanding so it earns them some money.
For example, scammers have, for years, posed as police officers and court officials threatening victims with arrest and jail for bogus charges like failing to turn up for jury duty.
In the latest variation in this type of crime, crooks have discovered there are ill-gotten gains to be picked up by scouring public notices about bankruptcy.
They then contact individuals who've filed for bankruptcy, spoofing caller ID with the name and number of the person's attorney (also available on the public record).
The trickster poses as an associate of the attorney with news about a problem with paperwork and a warning about an unpaid debt of several hundred dollars that has to be paid immediately.
As usual, the demand is coupled with a warning that the victim will be arrested if they don't pay -- but the threat is made to appear genuine because the scammer seemingly knows so much about the individual's financial affairs.
And again, as usual, the victim is told they must wire the money immediately, otherwise they'll be thrown in jail.
There's the red flag. As we always warn, you should never wire money to someone you don't know.
Even if you have reason to think it's genuine -- as in the case of spoofing your attorney's number -- you should always independently check it out. In this case, that means calling your attorney's office.
However, crooks are also wise to this warning and, in at least one reported case, called the victim out of hours, so they couldn't check.
But the victim could have waited till the next day or called the police. It's highly unlikely a person would be arrested for an unpaid debt without some sort of prior letter, except in the most extreme of circumstances.
And now, at least by knowing about this, if you are unfortunate enough to have filed for bankruptcy, you'll be forewarned about the scam.
Bail Bond Scam
Another law-related, pay-now scam targets individuals who really have been arrested and then released on bail.
Remember, arrests don't just happen to hardened criminals. Innocent people get arrested too.
In fact, thousands of people get arrested every day in the U.S. -- some of them just suspects who turn out not to have broken the law -- and most of them are then released on bail, while the case is investigated.
It's not clear how crooks get hold of the relevant information but they find out the name of the bail bond company and then pose as the bond agent, phoning the released person and demanding an immediate payment.
The scammer warns that if the money is not paid immediately, the bail bond will be revoked and the individual will be re-arrested and go back to jail.
Apparently, there have been several incidents of this type in various parts of Texas. One case took on the guise of a grandparent scam in that the phony bond agent reached an elderly relative of the person, with the same warning about re-arrest unless she wired several hundred dollars.
Once again, people who receive calls like this should contact police rather than sending any money.
As one bond agent put it: "Once you get out of jail, don't send money. You're done there."
Finally, in another twist of the legal system, scammers pose as employees of what they label as a pre-trial intervention organization, claiming victims have a pending case against them.
The caller implies that his organization will represent the victim's interests and demands personal information.
If the victim refuses to give it, the scammer warns that the refusal will be recorded as "waiving the right to counsel."
This phishing scam is pretty easy to spot because notices of legal actions are usually sent by letter, not by phone. In any case, you should never provide personal information over the phone to an unsolicited caller.
Instead, contact the police or your state consumer protection office.
Alert of the Week
Watch out for a new credit report scam that arrives via email with the subject heading "Get Protected."
It pretends to come from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and offers to warn you if someone else is using your Social Security number and to monitor your credit records.
The message contains a link that either leads to a fake SSA page where you have to key in personal info including your Social Security number, or it attempts to download malware onto victims' PCs.
This is a fairly obvious trick since the SSA doesn't provide a credit monitoring service. Delete the message!
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.