Va. state police warn of scams targeting the elderly and sex offenders

WASHINGTON — Reports of scammers targeting residents in Northern Virginia are on the rise.

Virginia State Police said they are seeing an “alarming increase” in fraudsters using threats to motivate people to send them money or gift cards.

In one case, a scammer tries to convince the person who answers the phone that their loved one has been jailed. The caller can sometimes be very convincing, providing personal information, such as date of birth, social security numbers and the names of other family members, related to the loved one who supposedly needs help. The call usually involves demands of hefty payments to secure a loved one’s release.

Another scam on the rise, according to Virginia State Police, is one that targets people on Virginia’s sex offenders list.

The scammer tells the convicted sex offender that there is a warrant out for their arrest and that they shouldn’t call the police department. Police said the sex offender is often times pressured and threatened to clear up the warrant through payments using “eGift” or other forms of online payments.

In most cases, police said the scammers are using “spoofing” technology, which makes it seem like the call is coming from a local police department or sheriff’s office on caller IDs.

Although it is illegal, investigators have a tough time tracking down the criminal callers because they use prepaid phones and, many times, call from areas outside of the state or even the country.

If you receive a phone call from what you believe is a scammer, police urge you to hang up and report the call to your local police department. Complaints can also be made to the Federal Trade Commission, which investigates these cases, on its website, or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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