Phone schemes targeting seniors and convicted sex offenders, State Police say

RICHMOND – The Virginia State Police is warning the public of an increase in phone schemes that are targeting seniors and convicted sex offenders.

Authorities say the schemes involve callers threatening people into paying them hundreds of dollars in gift cards.

In one popular scheme, the caller says a relative has been arrested and needs a substantial amount of money to be released from jail. The caller then convinces the victim to provide extensive personal information – such as the date of birth, address, social security number and other family members’ names – about the relative who supposedly needs help.

State Police say they are also getting calls from convicted sex offenders in Northern Virginia who are being told there is a warrant out for their arrest. The scammer tells the sex offender not to call State Police and that the only way to confirm the warrant is to pay a fine.

According to Virginia law, it is illegal to use the information provided on the Virginia Sex Offender Registry to intimidate someone listed on the registry. Violation will result in a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Law enforcement says in both cons, the scammer tells the victim how the payment should be submitted, which is usually through an eGift card or similar payment to a specified account or name given by the caller. They say the scammer will often pressure, threaten and verbally abuse the victim into complying.

The scammer will also manipulate caller ID in an act known as “spoofing,” which makes the number look like it is coming from a nearby State Police office or local police or sheriff’s office. To do so, the scammer often uses pre-paid phones and are typically not even in the jurisdiction where the crime happened, which makes catching them difficult.

Authorities say to hang up and contact your local law enforcement agency or the Virginia State Police. You can also make a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which works with other law enforcement agencies to bring scam artists to justice.

Click here to file a complaint online or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.