Beware of ‘U.S. Marshal’ scam calls

Jun 27th, 2016 | By | Category: Business news, Commentary, Featured, Regional News
Dale Dixon

Dale Dixon

By Dale Dixon

The idea of having a warrant out for your arrest can be a scary thought. So when a phone call comes in, claiming to be from a Deputy United States Marshal, you may feel like you need to take action. The caller explains there is a pending warrant and you must call back in order to resolve the situation and avoid arrest.

The calls are becoming so prevalent, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and U.S. Marshals Service issued a warning to Idahoans this week. Calls have been reported in the Pocatello area. When people return the call, the automated message says:

“You have reached the U.S. Marshals Service serving the Northern District of Idaho. If this is an emergency, hang up and dial 911. If you have information regarding the whereabouts of an absconded fugitive please remain on the line for the next available deputy. For all other inquiries please listen closely because our menu options have recently changed. For warrants division, press 1; for civil processing division, press 2; for gang enforcement, press 3; for the officer in charge, press 4; for clerk of courts, press 5.”

I have to say, that sounds pretty good as far as scammers go. According to the U.S. Marshals, once connected to a person, the caller is given the option of paying a fine to settle out of court. The caller is asked to buy a prepaid Visa or MasterCard and provide the number on the back of the card to “pay the fine.”

Keep in mind, the scammers can be quite elaborate. They’ll provide you case numbers, phony badge numbers, and they’ll do their homework to make things seem legitimate. They may even know personal information about you, often found from online searches. Remember, legitimate law enforcement agencies will not call you and demand money.

Never give a credit, debit or pre-paid cash card number over the phone. Bad guys may claim they are collecting debt, back taxes, or other scary situations to try and instill fear and a sense of urgency in their victims.

Unlike a credit card, pre-paid debit cards are untraceable and charges cannot be reversed. When the serial number of the card is given to the scammer, the victim is out the money. Same thing with wire transfers: that money is likely gone for good.

If you believe you may have a legitimate warrant for your arrest or unpaid traffic fine, contact law enforcement directly via a phone number you look up independently, not one a potential scam artist gives you.

Hang up. Don’t provide any information over the phone. If you get a call from a number you don’t recognize, don’t answer. If it’s important, the caller will leave a voicemail, and you can decide whether it’s worth returning the call.

The U.S. Marshals Service says it is a crime for an individual to falsely represent himself or herself as a federal official or Deputy United States Marshal. The service will investigate this scam and similar efforts in partnership with the FBI.

Dale Dixon is chief innovation officer of the Better Business Bureau Northwest. 342-4649,

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One Comment to “Beware of ‘U.S. Marshal’ scam calls”

  1. KIm Wilson says:

    I just received one of these calls today. They left a message on my answering machine with a callback number of 646-351-1197. If there is some place that I can report it, would love to have that information.

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