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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 ftc.gov/complaint. Select the category “Scams and Rip-offs” then “Impostor Scams”.

To learn more, read Government Imposter Scams or listen to these tips.

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179 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.

SusieQ
June 14, 2016
I just received a call saying that we have 4 counts against us from the IRS and to not disregard the call. Call them back at 202-754-8404. As a senior citizen, it's a bit scary, but did decide that it is a scam since we have a CPA that did our taxes. Then decided to google the number. I am glad to learn that it is being checked into.
OmiM
June 15, 2016
I literally just received a call from 202-754-8404 stating that I had charges against me for not paying my taxes. Although I do owe taxes, I had recently set up a payment plan with them. once I mentioned that, they quickly hung up. I called back and they mumbled something and hung up. I called again and he greeted me as he did on the first call stating the IRS department. I guess he recognized the number because he quickly hung up.
CICT
June 16, 2016

The most recent telephone numbers linked to the IRS impersonation scam are:(917) 285-7821 (202) 239-0497 (206) 900-0965 (213) 289-9244 (315) 704-1376 (469) 351-7852 (516) 209-0007 (610) 657-9733 (760) 933-1327 (818) 532-2005 (929) 244-4741 (202) 836-9985

ilovepenguins
June 20, 2016
I just received the same call from 202-754-8404 regarding 4 counts against me and to call back and the robo voice said good luck at the end. Someone really needs to look into this it is very disconcerning.
Chere0805
July 08, 2016

In reply to by ilovepenguins

I got this same call, same number. Said my fine would be $75,000, but if i took care of it bow it would only be $1178. When I mentioned that my best friend is a tax attorney and I would turn the matter over to her, he said expect to be arrested within the hour lol. ...ok!
Truc
June 21, 2016
I just received the same call from 202-754-8404 regarding 4 Federal charges under my name... Same robo voice said good luck at the end. Should I be concerned?
IMAFED
July 26, 2016
Got same call from 202-754-8404 about four federal charges against me. I am a FED. This needs to be in writing! Don't fall for it!
lilme
July 27, 2016
Got a call fron202-241-4518, saying he if ifficerMike Johnson, collecting a debt. Wanted me to Wesrern Union money to a Kellie Mittchell in Rochester MI. He has a very deep Indian accent. He is continually calling me almost every hour. I called my local law enforcement and the ffcc. also. He also calls from 904-584-2650, but that number is now not in service. He is also calling my work. He also leaves messages that say good luck if I ignore his calls
WhyDoPeopleSuck
August 12, 2016
Male voice, sounded like an Indian accent and he spoke very slowly and deliberately, as if reading... Left a voicemail saying he was an officer, Mike 'Somebody' and that it is an important matter and that a lawyer or myself should call back. If I did not call back, the best of luck to me in my future legal matter. Saved the voicemail just in case. He did not state what precinct or state he was from or say my name in the voicemail. And officers would never threaten you on a phone call in that manner.
TruthSeeker
September 27, 2016

In reply to by WhyDoPeopleSuck

A 117jerk with an Indian Accent whi sounded just like a doctor I know, threatened me over the telephone, and said he was from the IRS. I cussed him out, and made a few of my own threats, and contacted him repeatedly. Then I received a phony LITIGATION letter several months later, but I believe it was a totally different scammer. I assisted a Government Agency because when I contacted them about those scams, they were apparently already working on it. Now I received another such scam letter with a different telephone number, address, name, and cash demand amount. Once again, I reported it.This just happened, and the letter along with the envelope will be saved as evidence. Also, when I checked the address on the internet, it came back as an actual house for sale, and also a business. The faces of several realtors popped up. I am intelligent enough NOT to call that toll free number, although it can be fun to make reverse threats, and tell them they are about to be raided by the Feds! They sure become paranoid when you tell them that you know who they really are, and whete they at. A really good psychic would be able to trace these criminals, and I, myself, have been known to be quite intuitive at times.
baileygirl
August 29, 2016
Just got a phone call with a similar scenario, male with an accent stated I needed to call him back at 561-288-2295, mispronounced 5. Also said not to disregard this matter and either call back or have attorney call back, otherwise, "good luck as this matter unfolds on you"
Wtf2
September 02, 2016
Got a call this morning Heavy Indian accent saying that I was being arrested for Perjury hung up on him I could not understand him And he called back and left a robotic Lady Talking The SAME thing!#757-966-665
MJL677
September 13, 2016
Same exact thing just happened to me as did Baileygirl a few messages back. The "officer" had a strong Indian accent and his number is: (305) 938-0495. I actually called back but after several rings always goes to voicemail.
Mike B.
September 14, 2016
I have received numerous harassing call from lowlife dirt bags who identify themselves as a "Benevolent Association For Retired Florida State Troopers" - sometime varies with "Police Officers". Yeah, right!! NO State, Federal, OR Local law enforcement agencies are permitted to make solicitations for money on the phone!! Caller ID indicated- UNKNOWN CALLER/UNKNOWN NUMBER. I'm in my late 50's but one thing I DON'T HAVE is Alzheimer's, andI know a SCAM when I hear one!
FTC Staff
October 03, 2016

In reply to by Mike B.

This FTC article lists questions to ask if a fundraiser calls from a police or fire department service organization.

Most solicitations for police and fire service organizations are made by paid professional fund-raisers.

Messenger
September 22, 2016
I received three phone calls over two days in my voice mail, each call from a different number and state area code. Every call had the exact same recorded message. It was a female electronic voice, claiming to be Local cops, saying I had four serious allegations pressed upon my name. Telling me to call the number they gave me, before taking any legal action against me. All the calls were the same voice and message, except for the different phone numbers. It must be a scam, as I am a law abiding citizen. Here are the numbers: (724) 648-3436, (347) 778-0709, (206) 388-4862. I have not called any of the numbers back, because I am concerned that doing so might confirm to them that it is a viable number.
Geropsych
October 04, 2016
My dad just received a call from a "Sargeant Matthew Este" from the Nashua NH police department telling him he failed to appear for jury duty. My dad is 90 and previously a victim of scamming with the grandson scheme. He asked for info from this person who told him the courthouse was in an area it wasn't. But my dad still called me fearful he maybe had missed something and might be in trouble. The person gave him a phone number. I will be reporting this to the local authorities and the AG office. These people prey on seniors. This should be stopped.
Anon123
October 04, 2016
Got a voicemail by a male "cop" with a Chinese accent stating that I needed to call him back at 1 (844) 554-7230. He didn't state my name or the issue, and also said not to disregard this matter and either call back or have attorney call back, otherwise, "good luck as this matter unfolds on you." Left a second voicemail with the same message stating I didn't yet return the call and repeating "and either call back or have attorney call back, otherwise, "good luck as this matter unfolds on you." I believe this is a scam.
Mr. O
February 14, 2017
I received a recorded call from this number 706 309 0034. It is per White pages primarily an Appling, GA phone. They claimed I was being investigated and if I didn't return their call they were going to turn over the investigation to the county I was in. Being disabled, near elderly, and considered a medical emergency, and near homeless, it's an obvious scam.
a bhat
February 21, 2017
I keep getting calls from unknown number impersonating the police saying i have pending case against me! Recently i got a call from this Georgia number 404 455 9111. Beware...
the_dude-099
February 27, 2017
@a bhat - same thing just happened to me. Beware of 404-455-9111 and 844-755-9683.
Nana
March 02, 2017
I just got a call from 404-455-9111, stating he would be here between 3-5 to serve me papers. He stated I needed to call 832-709-1383 with a case number.
gg
March 08, 2017
I received a call from 404-455-9111 today from someone claiming to be from the RI Attorney General's office, and who had details of paperwork I had submitted. They then hung up on me when I questioned them. I called back the officially listed number for the RI Attorney General's office, eventually reaching the person who called me. They assured me that they don't have such a number.
Vatsan
April 13, 2017
I got a call from 281-205-8803. He said his name was John green. He asked my name and I gave it and asked to know more and a refused to provide more details. He insisted about prying more to know myself and when I continued to refuse he said he'll contact my sheriff department and have me arrested and will cease my bank accounts and driver license and my SSN. Should take this seriously?
ctressler
April 13, 2017

In reply to by Vatsan

Never give out or confirm financial or other sensitive information, including your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number, unless you know who you're dealing with. Scam artists  can use your information to commit identity theft — charging your existing credit cards, opening new credit card, checking, or savings accounts, writing fraudulent checks, or taking out loans in your name.

not that gullible
April 27, 2017
My relatives received a call on their land line from "Deputy Michael Campbell at the Columbia County Sheriff's office" looking for me (using a previous version of my name that I haven't used in over 4 years). He was suspiciously pushy but wasn't given much info. They called me with his name and phone number along with his message that it was "urgent." Suspecting it was a scam, I called the Columbia County Sheriff's administrative department directly who confirmed they had no officer by that name and the phone number I was given did not belong to any of their office phones or officers' cell phones. I was then transferred to the fraud department where I left a message for a legit officer with all the details I had (haven't heard back yet, not sure I will). The number given by the scammer was 706-538-2180. It's probably a throw away cell or google voice number but just in case someone searches for it wondering if it's a scam, they'll come across it here. I have to admit that I want to call the number back just for fun and jerk the guy around (and while he's tied up on the phone with me, he's not scamming someone else) but I don't want to reveal my cell or work numbers in the process. Still, the temptation is strong to find out all the scammy details. It's times like these I wish we still had pay phones. *sigh*
not that gullible
April 27, 2017
I think one of the big "tip offs" that it's probably a scam is when the person starts getting angry or threatening. Police and IRS don't get uptight about this kind of thing. If you legitimately owe money, they have procedures to follow that I'm pretty sure don't include temper tantrums on the phone.
Jim P
May 05, 2017
I received a phone call yesterday and they said I had received a grant that I did not have pay back for 60 thousand dollars. I asked how could that be .Since I owed the IRS. And I am now disabled .I finally hung up on them.Today I got a call from an Indian speaking man that told me he was from the sheriff Department and that the IRS was demanding 2 thousand dollars Now.And I stated I am disabled and have nothing to give them .They asked me were I was at home,outside or work? Then told me that the police were on their way to arrest me.I called the telephone number back and when they answered it they new who I was before I even said anything.The called id said Florida #772-212-1637
Iggy
July 05, 2017
I received 2 calls from 646 area saying I was gonna be arrested if I did not return calls on 4 charges. I never been to NYC nor been in trouble. What should I do?
Cindy
July 11, 2017
I was scammed for $1600. They faked the passport and also the house. Because I'm in another country so I can't get there to see how it was. They use this address to reach me. Please help me! This is the address they use: bian @ robins-morton
Kzz
August 15, 2017
Someone called and use my no as for to pretend as police and now what how can I provw its not me that person is calling me to tell me that I am scamming her , seriously dont know what to do in this situation
Passthebullets
August 19, 2017
If a human is talking to you telling you that he's going to arrest you or whatever th e scam is. By a police whistle hold the phone away from your ear and blow as hard as you can in the mouthpiece.
Dodgeman
August 19, 2017
I had a person say that they r a Breckenridge agent and was going to put me on like YouTube,are they true?? They want money to not do it also.
Joey's granny
August 21, 2017
I was told I could get grant money started through Facebook messenger someone asked to add you then lays it out that they got money shows that they did you text this # then they ask you info through text then ask for $700 dollars then keeps harassing you till you threaten to call police then they cuz you out I kept all text and #s going to take to local police department
Amy L
September 21, 2017
I've been called by an unknown number so many times claiming I have an arrest warrant under my name by the IRS. What else can I do besides decline the phone call?
dennyd
January 11, 2018
just got a call saying i have 4 serious charges against me , and if i dont call back the local cops will pick me up ---------------- serious lol
Thunderstorms 1
January 23, 2018
I got a call from a guy in Chicago Illinois claiming to be a detective Collins and told me that I had to pay him money through Western Union for bail I freaked out and sent him money but the money that I sent was in someone else name well after losing a lot of money I self respect and hurting so many people I filed a police report and I also talked to the FBI but yet some how he keeps calling and thearting me what do I do now
FTC Staff
January 25, 2018

In reply to by Thunderstorms 1

If someone threatens you, you can contact the police.

Teet31
January 24, 2018
Someone called me about a 3,000 loan. They put 497$ in my bank account. Then told me I had to send it back to ensure that I was a real person. They told me to go to Walgreens and get a Google play card and put the money on there then send it back and in the next three minutes I will get the three thousand dollars.
FTC Staff
January 25, 2018

In reply to by Teet31

That sounds like a scam. If they send you a bad check, and you send them $497 before your bank finds out it is a bad check, you will lose $497.  If you send them money and the bank finds out later that the check is bad, you will have to repay the bank all the money you withdrew.

BDOG 156
February 04, 2018
I GOT A CALL FROM A 7472019701 thy said I have allagashins against me n I need pay them or I'm going jail
C.C
February 20, 2018
I keep getting calls from people like Scam like after I told them if call the police
allegations ag…
March 02, 2018
Have been getting recorded calls from different numbers on my cell threatening me that I have 4 allegations against me and that they are sending the cops. That I should call them back. Some of these numbers are (828)367-37-31 and (775)4104122
mrharv
March 09, 2018
Getting calls from 515-897-3356 stating if my husband does not return call he will be "arrested by local cops" (their wording). If it was legit I can't imagine them using the slang "cops". Please advise what needs to be done about this. My husband has received at least 4 calls since Nov 2017. Last call came in today 3/9/2018.
Snowman
June 28, 2018
I was in the middle of a FaceTime call with my friend and I got a different call in the middle. I hung up with my friend for a moment to answer the call. It said that if I paid $386, I'd get an inflatable snowman. I started laughing and hung up. Why would I even buy an inflatable snowman for $386 anyway?
Shivani
October 23, 2018
I just now got a call from IRS department stating that I have outstanding tax amount and within 45 min cops will be at my place if I hung up the call or didn't pay the amount. When I told them that IRS always sends letter or notices in written, they said we did but it was bounced back to us as there was no one at the address. the year for which they were asking I was not in the USA even. I told this to them and then they said someone else did this fraud in your name. I hung up the call stating I need to talk to my husband and immediately I started getting calls from +911 and +1011911 stating that its sheriff from Marion County and they are coming to arrest me. I dont know what all this really is?
blah
August 20, 2018
I got a call today (8/20/2018) from a very strange sounding man saying he's calling from the San Francisco Police Department. The off thing was the number did match the SFPD number when I googled it. He passed me onto another man who is supposed to be a senior officer (or investigative officer? i forget) who claimed to be Allan Parish from SFPD. They said that my social security and ID have been found in an abandoned car at the South Texas border. Apparently it had drugs in it too. I'm not sure what they were going to request from me, but when I wanted to know more information about Allan Parish and what exactly his title is at the SFPD, he got testy and said something like "you can track the number, it's the SFPD number", but when I pressed for more information about him, he said "you can hang up the call and the federal government will begin taking immediate legal action against you" and when I kept asking, he hung up. I called the actual SFPD and they verified that it was a scam. They also said that when the police department calls the number will not show on our phone. It'll either say "Unknown caller" or "Blocked."
legrac3
March 06, 2019

In reply to by blah

I received a strangely similar call today (3/6/19). They "patched" me through to the alleged Daryl Fong from his listed number (415) 575-6000. They said a police officer would appear at my door tomorrow morning to deal with the matter, which involved getting new social security numbers and having my assets frozen. He also said that I would have to go through the ADR process with the Texas District Attorney, which struck me as completely odd. The person also got testy as well when I pressed for more information about him and started to speak faster. When I told him that I was an attorney, that was when he promptly hung up the phone. Be careful everyone!