ACPD details common local scams, from fake kidnappings to impersonating police

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Claiming a family member has been kidnapped and demanding a ransom. Threatening you with arrest if a fine is not paid for supposedly missing jury duty.

Those are just two of the most common scams perpetrated on local residents, according to the Arlington County Police Department.

ACPD detailed some of the scams they frequently respond to in a new press release. The victims are often older, with one of the scams specifically targeting grandparents, but anyone could be targeted.

The bottom line from police: “be cautious of unsolicited calls and emails, especially if the individual requests payment in the form of gift cards, cash or cash apps.”

The full ACPD press release detailing some common scams is below.

In support of the department’s key initiative of crime prevention and control, the Arlington County Police Department (ACPD) is sharing information on common scams and tips for how to spot, avoid and report them. Although many scams can appear convincing, remember to be cautious of unsolicited calls and emails, especially if the individual requests payment in the form of gift cards, cash or cash apps.

Please note, the information provided in this press release is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all possible scams currently circulating. Individuals seeking additional information about fraud are encouraged to visit our financial crimes information webpage.

Scam #1: The Virtual Kidnapping Ransom Scam

Scammers will call potential victims stating their family member is being held captive and threaten to continue holding them hostage unless they receive payment, typically through a cash app. The scammers will provide the victim with specific instructions to ensure the safe return of the family member and order the individual to stay on the line until money is received. This particular scam creates a sense of urgency and panic as the scammers also state they will harm the family member if the money is not sent immediately. ACPD encourages the public to hang up and call 911 immediately if faced with this scam.

Scam #2: The Grandparent Scam

Scammers will target elderly victims by calling and stating their grandchild has been arrested for driving under the influence or other serious crime. The nature of the situation makes the grandchild ‘unavailable’ to confirm their identity by phone and the scammer will ask the victim to send money for attorney fees or bail. In some cases, the scammers impersonate the grandchild while reporting to be in a crisis situation. This particular scam preys on the fears of grandparents to get them to act quickly. If you receive a call of this nature, hang up and call 911 immediately. ACPD advises a quick way to know if this call is a scam is if the caller asks the victim not to call the grandchild’s parents to confirm they have been arrested.

Scam #3: The Jury Duty Scam

Scammers will pose as law enforcement and contact victims accusing them of failing to appear for jury duty and stating a warrant for their arrest will be issued unless a fine is paid. Payment is often requested in the form of gift cards and the scammer will ask the victim to provide the gift card numbers over the phone. Scammers may also instruct the victim to send the gift cards to a police department as an added appearance of legitimacy. As a reminder, ACPD and the Sheriff’s Office will never call to solicit funds or collect fines over the phone. Additionally, juror summonses are sent through the mail and communication through other mediums should be considered suspicious.

Scam #4: Spoofing

Spoofing is when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity. Scammers often use neighbor spoofing so it appears an incoming call is coming from a local number, or spoof a number from a company or a government agency that you may already know and trust. You may not be able to tell right away if an incoming call is spoofed. If you get a call from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement or on the company’s or government agency’s website to verify the authenticity of the call.

Fraud Crime Prevention Tips

Reduce the risk of becoming a victim of a scam by following these crime prevention tips:

  • Always be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls or emails.
  • Be cautious of mimicked telephone numbers and e-mail addresses.
  • Never use a phone number provided to you from the caller to verify their credibility.
  • Never give money or personal information to someone with whom you don’t have ties and did not initiate contact with.
  • Trust your instincts: if an unknown caller makes you uncomfortable or says things that don’t sound right, hang up.
  • Take your time. If the caller puts you in fear, requests you to act quickly or states there is an emergency, it’s likely a scam. Scammers create a sense of urgency to get you act impulsively and without thinking.

Remain fiscally secure by following these practices:

  • Track and review your bank and credit card statements for irregular activity.
  • Avoid unusual payment methods. No government agency or legitimate business will instruct you to resolve your debt using a payment method such as Bitcoin, money wires, cash app, mailed cash or gift cards where the identification numbers are provided over the phone.
  • Do not respond to e-mails or text messages requesting you to “confirm,” “update,” or “provide” account information.

Report Scams

If you find that you were a target or victim of a scam, please file an online police report or call the Alternative Reporting Unit at 703-228-4300.

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