BALTIMORE, MD—Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner on Friday announced that scammers are attempting to “spoof” the U.S. Attorney’s Office main office telephone number so that calls appear to originate from the U.S. Attorney’s Office on the recipient’s caller ID in a criminal scheme to defraud individuals who owe federal debts such as criminal restitution or civil student loans.
In one such instance, the caller, alleging to be “an agent of the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” told the victim that there was a $6,000 debt, $1,200 of which had to be paid immediately to avoid further action. The caller allegedly threatened that if the victim called an attorney, an arrest warrant would be issued. A banner has been posted on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office website warning citizens of the scam.
Officials say representatives of the Maryland United States Attorney’s Office will never threaten an individual for seeking or wishing to consult an attorney. Anyone who receives a call from someone claiming to be from the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office about a debt that they don’t know about, seeking immediate payment by credit/debit card or gift card, or otherwise behaving in a threatening manner, should get their name and offer to call them back. Hang up, call the main office number, 410-209-4800, and ask for that person by name. If it is a legitimate call, they will take the call or reception will take a message for them. If the phone call was not legitimate, report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) website at https://www.ic3.gov and/or to the FBI at https://www.fbi.gov/tips or call 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324).
Law enforcement defines this type of scam as government impersonation fraud. The criminals, posing as government officials, often threaten to extort victims with physical or financial harm. According to the IC3, 12,334 people reported being victims of government impersonation scams in 2020, with losses totaling more than $106 million. Anyone who feels they were the victim of this or any other online scam should report the incident immediately using the IC3 website at https://www.ic3.gov. More information about government impersonation schemes and other online fraud schemes can be found at https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-fraud-schemes.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office staff will never ask for payment or personally identifying information over the phone.