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VSP warns public to beware of phone scams

Staff report • Jun 24, 2018 at 12:30 PM

RICHMOND — The Virginia State Police on Friday said the agency has recently been alerted to “an alarming” increase in phone scams targeting seniors and, especially, convicted sex offenders.

The VSP said the consistent theme of the scams has been threatening people into paying hundreds of dollars in gift cards to the fraudsters.

One of the scams making the rounds across the commonwealth involves a caller saying a relative has been arrested and incarcerated and is in need of a substantial amount of money in order to be released from jail. Fraudsters can be very convincing, the VSP said in a press release, by providing extensive personal informal such as date of birth, address, other family members’ names and the Social Security number of the relative supposedly in need of help.

The VSP said the agency is also taking numerous calls from convicted sex offenders in Northern Virginia who are being told there is a warrant out for their arrest. They are advised not to call the VSP and told the only way to adjudicate the warrant is by paying off a fine.

Virginia law prohibits the unlawful use of the information provided on the state’s Sex Offender Registry for purposes of intimidating or harassing individuals listed there and such actions are punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

With both cons, the VSP said scammers provide instruction on how payments should be submitted, usually via an eGift card or similar payment to a specified account or name provided by the scammer. The scammer will often pressure, threaten and be verbally abusive to intimidate prospective victims into complying with their demands.

Scammers will often maniplate caller ID, known as “spoofing,” to make the number appear to come from a nearby VSP office or local police or sheriff’s office. Scam artists use prepaid phones and many times are not even in the jurisdiction where they commit their crimes, making apprehension difficult.

If you receive such a call, the VSP said to hang up and contact your local law enforcement agency or the VSP. Complaints can also be made to the Federal Trade Commission (1-877-FTC-HELP), an agency that works with other law enforcement agencies to track down scammers.

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