MOUNT CARMEL — Police said a con artist who bilked a Mount Carmel couple out of nearly $650 by claiming to be with the U.S. Department of Justice also made his caller ID number the same as the local police department.
Mount Carmel Police Department Chief Mike Campbell is warning the public to be suspicious of anyone claiming to be with the Department of Justice, or any other federal agency, and threatening legal action if funds aren’t paid. This is a con and should be reported to police at once, Campbell said.
The Mount Carmel victim told police a man claiming to be Capt. John Harris with the Department of Justice called her and said that if she didn’t pay $1,287 she was in danger of legal action being taken against her.
The victim sent payments of $322 and $325 before reporting it to the MCPD.
“The victim received emailed ‘settlement initiation forms’ stating the amount paid and how much was still owed,” Campbell said. “It looked official on U.S. Department of Justice letterhead. A notice on the form states they want you to use ‘Fast Cash 500’ for payment.”
The numbers on the forms have New York area codes, but Campbell said when he tried to contact those numbers they had been disconnected.
The victim also received two calls in which the caller ID read 423) 357-9019 — which is the number to the Mount Carmel police station.
Campbell said he explained to the victim that it is possible to program your phone to make it look like the call is coming from another number.
“Capt. Harris” called the victim again on Tuesday and told her to meet him at the Mount Carmel Police Department. The MCPD had an officer standing by at the police station with the victim, but no one showed up.
“I would like to get the word out to the public to be aware of this scam and others like it,” Campbell said. “Government agencies are not going to call you or email you out of the blue to say you may be in trouble without first providing you with written explanation. If you receive a call like this, don’t panic. Contact your local police department, and let us determine whether or not it is a scam.”
Campbell added, “We are seeing more and more scams using government names such as FBI and DEA, and now U.S. Department of Justice. I did contact the Department of Justice, which is fully aware of these scams which are under investigation.”