By Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt
One of the scams that almost always appears on our annual list of “most common scams of the year” is the government imposter scam. The catch line is usually how they can help you satisfy a debt you might have or help you recover funds that you are owed quickly.
Recently, we’ve seen increased reports of a particular government imposter scam involving a caller claiming to be from the local sheriff’s office alleging there is an outstanding arrest warrant that needs to be addressed. The caller usually says that the matter can be resolved by making a payment over the phone. The caller threatens that without payment, a deputy will be out to arrest the individual, and further legal action will ensue.
This scam has been reported by a number of local law enforcement agencies across Kansas. Previous scams have involved someone pretending to be from the district court threatening the call recipient with a fine for missed jury duty. Both scams use the violation of the law as a scare tactic to get you to part with your money over the phone. It is important to know that law enforcement will never offer payment as a way to avoid arrest, and court officers will not call you and ask you for money for missing jury duty.
Another version of this scam includes callers claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or Kansas Department of Revenue, threatening an audit if supposed back taxes are not paid immediately.
Do not give in to threats of arrests, audits, or other financial penalties from people calling on the phone, claiming to be a government official. Payment over the phone will not clear an arrest warrant. In Kansas, if you miss jury duty, you will get a letter asking you to contact the court to reschedule your service. And, the IRS and Kansas Department of Revenue advises taxpayers that if there is a problem with your tax return, they will notify you by mail – not through a threatening phone call.
The key to all of these scams is to be skeptical of the person calling. Even if you think the call might be legitimate, hang up and call the person back at a phone number you know is real. This applies whether the call involves your grandchild, your electric company, court clerk, law enforcement, or any person calling you asking for money. Do not call back the number from your caller ID. Find the legitimate number through the phone book, the business or agency’s official website, or your billing statement. Ask for help from a trusted friend or relative before sending any money.
You can also call our Consumer Protection Division at (800) 432-2310 or visit us online at www.InYourCornerKansas.org. Our consumer protection specialists are there to help you protect your wallet from these telephone phonies.