It's a call that would scare just about anyone -- a call from the FBI. The only problem, the call is not coming from them but from crooks. It's happening in the Richmond area. Criminals are using the FBI's good name in hopes you will give up some money.
A Richmond woman recently got one of these scam phone calls. She didn't want to talk on camera but sent us an email detailing the call. The claim, she was in big trouble and needed to pay an advance fee so she wouldn't end up in jail. We took her concern to FBI Special Agent Alasdair Mackenzie.
"What saddens me is the number of people that are continuously victimized by these scams," he told us. Agent Mackenzie says the FBI will never call threatening an arrest, asking for money or requesting your personal information. He says when it comes to these phone scams there are two types of people that answer. "You've got people who realize at the beginning of phone call or letter that hey, this is a scam, they don't respond to it and they contact law enforcement," he says.
Our would-be victims falls into this category but there are those who get duped. "We've seen people who lose hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars through these scams," he says. In rare cases, you may get a call from the FBI but even if you think the call is legit, ask for the agency's number, hang up, research the number to make sure it's accurate and then call back to verify the call. "Once they have realized they have gotten someone who is vulnerable to being victimized, they are going to continue to victimize that person as much as they can, until the person refuses to cooperate anymore," he says.
The viewer who called us says the FBI impersonator had her date of birth and Social Security number. The FBI warns don't be fooled by this, crooks find ways to get their hands on this private information.
Websites like FBI.GOV and the Internet Crime Complaint Center are great resources for staying on top of the latest scams and reporting them. Special Agent Mackenzie says if you report it, officers will investigate.
He admits catching the criminals can be quite the task. "Depending on where the individual may be from, depending on if he is out side of the Continental United States, it certainly makes it a little bit more challenging but it doesn't mean that is impossible," he says. Remember, if you get one of these FBI imposter calls, hanging up is also a good line of defense.