By Kevin Kelley
The two recent instances of phone callers falsely posing as Westlake police officers are not the first time that type of scam has been attempted. In fact, the Better Business Bureau recently named the so-called “arrest warrant scam” one of the top 10 scams of 2013.
In this type of scam, con artists trick caller ID to indicate a phone call comes from a law enforcement agency. This tricking of the caller ID feature is known as “spoofing.” The phony officer claims the would-be victim is wanted on an arrest warrant, but that criminal charges can be avoided by payment of a fine. But these “police” will only accept a wire transfer or pre-paid debit card payment, not a credit card payment. Sometimes the con artists will refer to personal financial information they have obtained about the victim, according to the Better Business Bureau.
Con artists began using the arrest warrant scam last fall, the Better Business Bureau said.
Spoofing has grown in popularity among scammers because they have had success using it, said Melissa Szozda, director of consumer education for the Ohio attorney general’s office.
“It’s definitely been a growing trend,” she told West Life.
Just last week, several published reports warned of phony calls purporting to originate from Verizon Wireless. An automated message directs the recipient to a phony website – verizon45.com – to receive a reward of $54, according to the reports. The scam’s real aim is to obtain personal information from victims.
Scammers are able to trick caller ID into showing a different number by routing the call through the Internet, Szozda said. Apps are available that can not only create a phony caller ID number, but also electronically disguise the voice of the person calling, she added.
“It’s fairly easy if people know how to do it,” she said of spoofing.
In addition to posing as law enforcement agencies, scammers have utilized spoofing to impersonate clerk or court offices and debt collectors, Szozda said. Some con artists will go to court websites to look up defendants who still owe court fees, as well as their contact information, she added. So the debts the caller refers to may, in fact, be real, Szozda said, even through the caller is a scam artist.
Consumers who know their rights regarding debt collection are less likely to be victims of scams, Szozda said.
In any case, she said, people should not trust the information on caller ID.
“Just say, ‘Can I call you back?’ Then call at the number you know to be legitimate,” Szozda advises.
She also said people should be suspicious of anyone requesting personal information over the telephone.