The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office is warning residents of an old, but resurging phone scam.
LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. — The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office is sending a warning about spoof calls from people pretending to be law enforcement.
These scammers are calling and threatening to arrest people, and while it is not a new scam, they tell WUSA9 they had two people call them this week impersonating officials to try and get money.
In the Facebook alert, they warn to contact them if you receive a call saying a person needs bail money. That the scammers claim “a family member is in jail or was involved in a vehicle crash and needs bail money. The person is then instructed to go to the bank and withdrawal money. The victim withdrawals the money and is told that a courier (usually a rideshare service) is on the way to pick up the money. A courier arrives and picks up the money.”
Their warning follows one from Leesburg police just last month.
“A lot of times these callers purport to be a government entity such as the IRS…or claim to be, even, members of the Leesburg Police Department or other local law enforcement,” Officer Michael Drogin, the Public Information Officer for Leesburg Police Department explained. “They may say you have a warrant for your arrest, or if they are the utility companies will say, ‘Hey, we’re the power company and we’re gonna shut off your power…we’re going to arrest you on this warrant or deport you.”
“They use that fear tactic to get people in a mindset that they are panicking, what do I do, how do I get out of this not realizing unfortunately that it’s a scam,” he said.
That fear can be crippling. As it was for local realtor, mother of two, and former journalist Gitika Kaul of Montgomery County.
“The only reason I answered the phone was because it was the middle of the afternoon. My husband doesn’t call me in the middle of the day. And I figured it was an emergency,” she recalled.
When she answered, however, it was someone who said they were with the Montgomery County Police Department and had her husband in custody.
“They had said that he hadn’t filled out some appropriate immigration forms, which makes absolutely no sense because we’re U.S. citizens but in the moment I couldn’t differentiate between what was fact and fiction,” Kaul said. “And it was absolutely because my husband’s name was on the phone.”
Spoofing a call means showing an altered number on your caller ID. And the scammers came prepared, with not only details about her husband, but about the police department, precinct and phone numbers they were claiming to be from.
“It was really embarrassing to think that I fell for something like that because I consider myself a pretty savvy consumer. And he (her husband) was surprised too because it’s just so out of character,” she said. ” I consider myself a pretty skeptical person. But when you’re in that moment, it’s really hard to take yourself out of your head.”
Law enforcement officials warn and the FCC warn:
- Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately.
- Never wire money or provide debit/credit card numbers or money card numbers to someone you don’t know.
- Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately.
- Never provide personal or financial information to anyone who e-mails or calls you unsolicited.
“The police department is never going to call you and demand money, you know law enforcement doesn’t operate that way, right,” Drogin reminds.
Adding a legitimate officer or government official will never criticize or threaten you if you want to hang up and call them back to be safe.
For Kaul, luckily she took that pause and double checked.
“I looked at ‘Find My iPhone’ and I saw that he was working from home which is exactly where he was supposed to be. And I hung up the phone immediately,” she said.