Crime

That phone call from the police number demanding immediate payment? Ignore it, cops say

Spoofing: Don’t hang on, hang up

What is spoofing? Scammers falsify caller ID numbers that appear on your phone, disguising their identities as they try to steal your money or valuable personal information. Learn what you can do to avoid spoofing scams: fcc.gov/spoofing
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What is spoofing? Scammers falsify caller ID numbers that appear on your phone, disguising their identities as they try to steal your money or valuable personal information. Learn what you can do to avoid spoofing scams: fcc.gov/spoofing

Fort Lauderdale Police Department issued a warning Tuesday afternoon, telling people to be aware of phone scammers trying to get your money by using a police phone number in their calls.

In the standard phone scam, a caller pretending to be from a government agency, usually the Internal Revenue Service, tries to scare the target by claiming the target owes money and must pay now to avoid arrest. The scammer then tries to get the target to make that payment via gift cards, wired cash or bitcoin. The caller uses a device to disguise the actual number from which he’s calling.

In this 2.0 version of the phone scam, Fort Lauderdale police say, the number appears on caller ID as 954-828-5700. That’s the main Fort Lauderdale Police Department number. The con men also have used names and badge numbers of actual Fort Lauderdale Police Department employees.

“Please be aware, we will never ask you for payment of any kind over the phone,” read a statement from Fort Lauderdale Police. “You can always call us directly to verify any suspicious claims.”

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Here’s how to avoid being flimflammed by phone scams:

Government agencies don’t operate like a collection agency calling you after you fall behind a couple of payments. Neither the IRS nor the police call you to demand money you owe. They usually communicate by letter.

If this is the first you’re hearing about money you owe and they’re threatening arrest, it’s a scam. That’s not the way debt collection and the legal system works.

Government agencies don’t accept gift cards or bitcoin as payment. Remember McDonald’s Gift Certificates? Imagine paying the IRS or traffic tickets with those. Gift cards are the modern gift certificates.

Do not give out any personal information — no credit card numbers, Social Security numbers. They might say they need this information to confirm they’re speaking to you. That’s not your problem.

Report scam phone calls to the Federal Trade Commission at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.

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Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.
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