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We know scammers are out there, impersonating the authorities and conjuring up different schemes to fool people into giving them money. They might say they’re calling from the IRS because you owe taxes. Or claim they’re from the FTC, calling to help you recover money lost to a scammer. But now we’re hearing about a new ploy: scammers are impersonating the police! That takes some chutzpah, huh? Here’s how it works.

You get a phone call. Someone you care about is in jail and, they say, you need to pay up to bail him out. The scam-detecting radar in your head immediately goes off. You’re skeptical – but the caller ID says the call is from the police department. And, let’s be honest, your nephew is a knucklehead and you can totally imagine him being arrested. So, you keep listening.

The caller tells you to put money on a prepaid card and give him the card number. Now your scam-detecting radar is going off the charts. You know that police departments — and the federal government, for that matter — don’t tell people to pay with prepaid cards. You also know using a prepaid card is like paying cash — once the money is gone, you can’t get it back.

“But what about the caller ID?” you wonder. In fact, what seems like reliable information about the source of a call isn’t so reliable anymore. Scammers can rig caller ID to look like they’re calling from the police department. Or, really, anywhere — even your own number. Don’t rely on caller ID. It’s not foolproof. Scammers can easily spoof it to try to gain your trust. If it looks like the police are calling, look up the non-emergency phone number (hint: it’s not 9-1-1) and call to find out if the story is legit. You’ll soon learn it’s a scam.

Report the imposter to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

To learn more, read How To Avoid a Government Impersonator Scam.

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158 Comments


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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
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  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

silverwolf
July 17, 2015
I got a call yesterday saying they were from social security and that I was picked for a $5,789.00 non taxable grant only thing I had to do was wire them $400.00 than they would wire me back the money I also got a call from some one claiming to be a credit card debit reilfe guy he said they could help me get my credit card debt paid off and my taxs,paid off but I would have to pay them if they helped me I told them I don't owe taxs,nor do I owe anything on creditcards
miltee
July 17, 2015
This is so true. Someone called yesterday asking to speak to my husband and claimed to be from IRS. It sounded so fishy, I asked "What IRS?" and she says, "you know the real IRS." LOL! She hung up when I told her to write us a letter about the matter.
kcadran
July 20, 2015
Good information, but........pls tell us what FTC is doing to terminate such illegal activity. In recent months, the number of telephone calls, with a false ID number has increased, including calls from my own number. Likewise, am now getting more and more e-mails from multiple businesses,none of which I have requested. Simply put,I keep reading about the problem, but read nothing about the solution. Sure, occasionally, a report is seen about some business that is being prosecuted, but never and report on whether they were found guilty, fined, sent to jail.... If the criminals cals be tech savvy, why can't our government agencies do the something to immediately counteract illegal activity.
Andy S
January 03, 2017

In reply to by FTC Staff

So when you catch a scammer what question should you ask them so that you will be sure that they are lying
Fred S
November 09, 2017

In reply to by Andy S

One simple and fairly reliable strategy you can use to determine the legitimacy --- or lack thereof! --- of a possibly-bogus call like this is to ask the caller a question that only you and whomever he is claiming to be would know the answer to. For example, if you receive a call that is supposedly a follow-up call from a police officer who stopped you earlier that day, and who now supposedly needs more information from you or needs to tell you of additional crimes/violations that you have supposedly committed, interrupt the caller and say, "You know what? I don't believe that you're really from the police department --- you will need to tell me what it was that you pulled me over for today, or I will not listen to you any further." This will almost certainly call the prank-caller's bluff, since --- especially if the reason for the stop could not have been plainly obvious to any observers/passersby at the time, such as speeding or drunken driving --- the prankster could probably have no way of knowing for sure why you had gotten pulled over, and so he would not likely be able to guess the reason; this will reveal to you that in reality the caller is just an ordinary civilian who had merely observed your brush with the law earlier that day and is now simply trying to have some sick 'n' selfish fun at your expense. And besides, a real officer is probably not going to call you up and basically just "shoot the breeze" with you like this, especially if it's been many hours since the stop. Plus he would almost certainly have already asked you all the necessary questions and informed you of any and all violations AT THE TIME HE PULLED YOU OVER, not that evening or the next day.
Julie1012
July 05, 2018

In reply to by Carly q

A number called impersonating police. Said there were charges pressed against me & to call a special number to talk about it or the police were going to arrest me. It was a New York number. I was so scared i started crying. When i calmed down the number said spam. I would like to know why these ppl are not arrested. They are impersonating a police officer.
Vee22
January 17, 2019

In reply to by Julie1012

Got a call from the police department talking about an arrest warrant. When I said I didn’t know what arrest warrant they were talking about, they got really upset and started saying I’m being uncooperative and disrespectful. I already had the suspicion that it was a spam call, but I didn’t want to dismiss it 100% just in case.. so I asked if there was a call back number. Again, the “officer” got really upset and asked why I needed to call back with a harsh tone. When I was trying to explain, he kept cutting me off, accused me of things I couldn’t understand and threatening to use other means to take care of my arrest warrant. I knew that a real officer wouldn’t be reacting this harshly. Although I couldn’t help but get freaked out by his urgency and demanding tone. I stayed as calm as I could and told him that I want to be cooperative. Again, he cuts me off before I could finish saying that it’s not about me being cooperative, and that if I don’t even know about the arrest warrant, then he needs to escalate the issue. Finally, I asked if he could just repeat his officer number so I could jot it down in case our call gets disconnected. After I asked this, he hangs up.
Dallas downtown
September 14, 2019

In reply to by Vee22

I recently got a call from some number, he said he is from police dept he told me that he has my wife and mine arrest warrant as I forget to fill some immigrantion document he didn't give me time to check what is that he told to switched of my mobile and laptop, all network except from the number on which he called, he said don't call anybody or message else your punishment will be for more year if I hang up or disconnect his phone , he threatened us like anything we couldn't able to think anything because we did all documentation according to employer, he told that document is not employer responsibilities that's ours we told we are not aware about it, he told we are irresponsible and he talks very loudly and harshly, he told he freezer our passport and all he asked us our passport number too as gave it him because the number his showed us same which was showing in Capitol Police website we don't want to take a chance to obey what he is saying later he asked us how many credit card and debit card we are holding then I got suspicious and my wife called from other number to 911 told we are not sure they are police or not. Please send some to our address, we got scared like anything he told me slap me myself for putting my wife life in danger for not filling form and so many scared thing...
Jacky
April 11, 2019

In reply to by kcadran

I just missed a call from a 911 operator , it appeared as 202 225 0911. I called back and a lady answered "911 operator whats your emergency?" . I was surprised because I never called emergency and the lady sounded a little more relaxed than regular 911 responders and her background was completely silent unlike the regular noisy 911 background. This scam now is in 911 as well, worse they call using 911 numbers, wow.
JJ
April 26, 2019

In reply to by Jacky

It happened to me ..I gave a call back the officer very calm checked the info I provided him and exact time & told me" it was SCAM" .. It was second time in a week I had scam the other one robot talked ..hope they can find who are doing this bad calls to people
GeneralAgreement
July 17, 2015
What about when I call the FTC and they impersonate the FTC? Feigning that they will act on my complaint, passing the buck and telling me it's not their department while I get ripped off? Who is the scammer then?
Sam
January 15, 2018

In reply to by GeneralAgreement

Scammers initiate contact. If you look up the FTC's number on their website and call them, then you know you are talking to the FTC. It's when someone calls you claiming to be from a government agency you need to be wary.
Reo1935
July 17, 2015
Thanks for the info.
edmora55
July 17, 2015
Thanks so much for this advise, it helps
senator foghorn
July 17, 2015
i;m still gitin robokalls! how do i report this and too who? ams alredy on the kall list!.
cng740
July 20, 2015
it was bound to happen.
EWJ
July 17, 2015
Rec'd several call from number 815-516-0966. Caller ID reads: Illinois Police...These are scammers. FYI, City of Chicago/Chicago Police Department is area code 312.
FTC Staff
July 20, 2015

In reply to by EWJ

You can report this to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. The information you provide will go into a database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

Blog comments don't go into the database that law enforcement uses.

carolpebbles
July 17, 2015
I have "trooper " organizations and police organizations calling for donation, claimed it was for alabama troopers but when envelope arrived, return address was Wisconsin. I think this is a scam. I wish my name could be removed. Is it a scam?
FTC Staff
July 20, 2015

In reply to by carolpebbles

If you don't want to get more calls, tell a caller to take your name off their list.

crypter27
June 24, 2018

In reply to by carolpebbles

I got a call from a guy calling him a recording calling himself officer Jerry Williams threatening to shut down my windows. IP address, the trouble is I haven't used windows in a long time I use chrome.
12345
July 18, 2015
Thank you for the ALERTS and REMINDERS!As a person who lived the horror of an ID theft about a year or so back, I really appreciate your articles of eye-openers. Keep up the good work!
George Carlin Fan
July 20, 2015
I know that scammers are really sophisticated with their rip-off rackets and I DO NOT condone them in any way, shape, or form. That being said, anyone foolish enough to fall for this one might just need to learn a lesson for being so naive. So, I hope that they are reading this instead.
I hate Ignoran…
July 21, 2015

In reply to by George Carlin Fan

You are ignorant and hateful....most of these SCAMS are happening to our grandparents and you say they deserve to be robbed of their limited income? You Blow!!!!!
TamTam
December 12, 2015

In reply to by I hate Ignoran…

I agree 100%! Where are any hearts of compassion to those who are elderly/disabled/etc?! Not everyone understands how sick people are in this world when their bed ridden. Apparently whoever took the time to call people stupid basically for getting ripped off from these morons is the ignorant one. I pray you don't fall prey to these sick people who might just scam you.
Brenda
July 18, 2015
Thanks for keeping us informed.
lordsadashiva
July 20, 2015
we need really help from IRS department thank you IRS .please help us
ramaswamydusai
July 21, 2015
you people are great to help people do not know really people are.please inform us first about stammers are clever than government people.
gaya3silva
July 22, 2015
I received 2 scam phone calls on 07/21/15 and 7/22/15. These people were posing as USCIS personnel and custom police. The phone # that I received the calls are listed below 661-7480240 866-3472423 Please feel free to e-mail me regarding this matter. Thanks
B L Rasco
July 23, 2015
i cannot here well at 92, got scam call on home phone with message form IRS Agent to call 202 559 0661 on July 21,2015. I returned call and they said I owe taxes and would sue if I didn't pay. Could not here amount. I have not received a letter or bill from the IRS about any taxes due or owed. I have not owed or paid any taxes in years. HELP STOP SCAMERS
Land of Disney
July 24, 2015
I got a call last week wanting a donation of $25.00 for the local Sheriff's Department. I said "NO" that I had worked for a Sheriff's Department, and we NEVER solicited over the phone. This fell on deaf ears, as he said how about $10.00 donation? I said, "You don't even work for the Sheriff's Department do you?" He said "No." I said, "Just how much to you make by calling?" He said his company makes 85% and the Sheriff's Department makes 15%. "That's all I wanted to know, and take me off your calling list!"
baigs11
July 24, 2015
I was contacted by messanger to say that I had won Facebook s lottery? Funny they don't do one ! Anyway the woman who is called Jennifer Rodriguez and has a F B page saying she works for Facebook and is a administrator of funds . I was supposed to have won a cool $500,000,00 not bad . Then this woman asks for $210 for admen fee s once payed into a western union I would receive my check within 24hours . I even contact the FBI and even they said it was true do don't really understand that one ?? Why are they saying I have won and even showed me a check in my name on it and a code bar which I still have to run to see if it comes up with anything? Anyway I no am being scamed but it's a good one ,as said they can even get a FBI letter saying it's from a James comey FBI agent can this be checked his name ??? It's not that the FBI who I was leaving E-Mails for were to the FBI s headquarters so that's wot I don't get ?? He was not e mailing me I to him ??? . I will put all his details on and try to add the screen shot of the check . It looks official so beware? ----- Her name agent Jennifer Rodriguez FBI agent. James comey ....
ctressler
August 21, 2017

In reply to by baigs11

These are useful details for a complaint.  Please report your experience at ftc.gov/complaint. Your complaints help the FTC and other law enforcement agencies bring scam artists to justice. We cannot address complaints if they are submitted through the blog comments.

Please remember: If you have to pay, it’s not a prize. For more information, please see Prize Scams.

Chelle B Starr
August 07, 2015
I received a phone call stating on 8/6/2015 stating that I was going to be arrested on my job for bank fraud and i t was a felony charge. They said I owed Cash Advance. I was like "what!! You must be nutts!!" The guy claimed he was an a attorney from Harbor Mediation. I explained to him that I know how debt collections work and he told me that I should just hire an attorney because if I did not pay by 10am on 8/7/2015, I would be transported to the Federal Jail. I have him a piece of my mind and he disconnected the call.
Kerri1926
February 07, 2018

In reply to by Chelle B Starr

Yes I get these calls also. I still get them.
TheDoctor
August 12, 2015
I keep getting "Windows Tech Dept" calls, and once in a while "Police Benevolent" calls, I WANT TO STOP THEM
notfallingfirascam
June 28, 2017

In reply to by TheDoctor

I had that same response. I told him to call my attorney. He got pissed off but I never received any more calls after tha!
wasntfooled
August 14, 2015
Watch out for the IRS imposters. They are very clever and highly trained. It is scary to hear that your property, money and drivers license will be confiscated and that you will be arrested. They need to be caught and prosecuted! Im wondering why, with all the technology available, these telephone scammers cannot be traced and arrested?
Nancita
October 21, 2017

In reply to by wasntfooled

I got a voice mail from 7182148771 saying they was the irs sending cops to pick me up within the next 24hrs that I needed to call to clear this matter up but never once said my name this was on Oct 18th I never called them back and cops haven't showed up
ENTERPRICEWEBD…
August 24, 2015
california republic bank aka crbauto, aka crbnk needs to be investigasted . there under chase and bancore scamming ,they steal mail ,they peddle info and i have proof.
FTC Staff
August 24, 2015

In reply to by ENTERPRICEWEBD…

You can report problems with a bank to the bank regulator for the state. Look online for contact information.

Carter
August 25, 2015
I RECEIVED A PHONE MESSAGE FROM NO. 202-552-1015 SAYING HIS NAME WAS INVESTIGATOR JOSEPH DANIELS FROM THE FEDERAL BANK FRAUD DIVISION AND THAT I HAD THIS ONE OPPORTUNITY TO RETURNED THE CALL BEFORE HE CALLED MY LOCAL POLICE TO ARREST ME, I KNEW IT WAS FAKE BECAUSE I WORK IN LAW ENFORCEMENT AND THINGS AREN'T DONE THIS WAY. BUT....WHEN I GOOGLED HIS NAME, I FOUND A "SPECIAL AGENT" JOSEPH DANIELS THAT WORKS IN PENNSYLVANIA. SO I THINK THE BAD GUYS ARE USING THE GOOD GUYS NAMES, SO IF WE GOOGLE THEM, THEY WILL APPEAR REAL. GOOD LUCK TO ALL. I ALSO FOUND THAT A COMPANY BY THE NAME OF EASTERN STAR SOLUTIONS IS CONNECTED TO THIS J. DANIELS. DO NOT TRY TO ACCESS THEIR WEBSITE, IT HAS MALWARE AND VIRUSES, MY COMPUTER NOTIFIED ME BEFORE I CLICKED ON THE WEBSITE LINK.
Lisa
August 28, 2015

In reply to by Carter

I got this exact same call and I reported them to FTC although I'm sure nothing will come if it. I also recently received a call asking me when I would be home to have appears served me as I was being served. Really??? Lmao even if that WAS true do u think I'm going to tell u like I want to be served with papers!? Terrible scam.
One irritated …
March 03, 2016

In reply to by Lisa

I recently got the same call and the creepy thing is he had my old address and social security number. Sick people!
4ensics4me2
August 28, 2015
1-202-821-3671 1-202-821-4813 1-202-821-4818 1-202-821-4754 1-202-821-7132 1-202-821-6509 1-202-821-2503 1-202-821-3615 1-202-821-9643 1-202-821-6601 1-202-821-5430 1-This is referrence to case # 65603157, these are numbers that scammers have used in the past according to the reverse look up in the white pages website. 202-821-4757 1-202-821-8050 1-202-821-3697 1-202-821-9710 1-202-821-2224 1-202-821-2455 1-202-821-9626 1-202-821-6503 1-202-821-9146 1-202-821-5298 1-202-821-5989 1-202-821-9792 1-202-821-7481.