Philadelphia, PA - The U.S. Marshals and the FBI are alerting the public of several nationwide imposter scams involving individuals claiming to be U.S. marshals, court officers, or other law enforcement officials. They are urging people to report the calls their local FBI office and file a consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has the ability to detect patterns of fraud from the information collected and share that data with law enforcement.
During these calls, scammers attempt to collect a fine in lieu of arrest due to a claim of identity theft, failing to report for jury duty, or other offenses. They then tell victims they can avoid arrest by withdrawing cash and transferring it to the government, 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, or by depositing cash into bitcoin ATMs.
Scammers use many tactics to sound and appear credible. They sometimes provide information like badge numbers, names of actual law enforcement officials and federal judges, and courthouse addresses. They may also spoof their phone numbers to appear on caller IDs as if they are calling from a government agency or the court.
Some of the scams recently identified in the greater Philadelphia area involve a scammer impersonating a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer. The scammer calls the potential victim stating CBP has acquired packages containing illegal substances sent from Mexico and Colombia that are addressed to the victim, and that various bank accounts used to wire money to Mexico and Colombia have been associated with victim’s name. The scammer then provides identity confirming information to the victim by reading old residential addresses, phone numbers, and other personally identifying information that seem to make their claims legitimate. The scammer then provides a fake badge, case, and warrant number, and then notifies the victim that the purported illegal activity is being investigated. The victim is then told they must make payment to the U.S. Treasury or other government entity. The call then ends with the scammer advising the victim that they will be re-contacted by an investigating official. A short time later, the victim is contacted by another individual identifying himself as the United States Marshal, references the previous conversation with the scammer posing as a CBP Officer, and presents a large monetary demand to the victim along with the threat of arrest for non-payment. The scammers are able to spoof legitimate government phone numbers to make their calls appear as authentic.
These scammers often target the elderly, and there have been many victims nationwide with losses in the tens of thousands of dollars. If you are contacted, do not provide the scammers with any personal or bank information. Your best option is to end the call and report it to your local local FBI office and to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Things to remember:
- The U.S. Marshals Service WILL NEVER ask for credit/debit card/gift card numbers, wire transfers, or bank routing numbers, or to make bitcoin deposits for any purpose.
- NEVER divulge personal or financial information to unknown callers.
- Report scam phone calls to your local FBI office and to the FTC.
- You can remain anonymous when you report.
- Authenticate the call by calling the clerk of the court's office of the U.S. District Court in your area and verify the court order given by the caller.
- September 2022 - Recent scam scenarios and updated FTC link.
- March 2020 - The Department of Justice launched the National Elder Fraud Hotline, which provides services to seniors who may be victims of financial fraud. Case managers assist callers with reporting the suspected fraud to relevant agencies and by providing resources and referrals to other appropriate services as needed. The hotline’s toll free number is 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311).
- November 2019 - Scammers have demanded victims deposit money into bitcoin ATMs.
- December 2018 - Scams have been reported with callers claiming that social security numbers have been compromised. For additional information read the Inspector General Warns Public About SSA Impersonation Schemes notice.