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U.S. Marshals, FBI warn public of imposter scam involving cryptocurrency payment demands

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WASHINGTON, DC—The U.S. Marshals Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are alerting the public of several nationwide imposter scams involving individuals claiming to be U.S. marshals, court officers, or other law enforcement officials. They are urging people to report the calls their local FBI office and file a consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, which has the ability to detect patterns of fraud from the information collected and share that data with law enforcement.

During these calls, scammers attempt to collect a fine in lieu of arrest due to a claim of identity theft, failing to report for jury duty, or other offenses. They then tell victims they can avoid arrest by withdrawing cash and transferring it to the government, purchasing a prepaid debit card such as a Green Dot card or gift card and read the card number over the phone to satisfy the fine, or by depositing cash into bitcoin ATMs.

Scammers use many tactics to sound and appear credible. They sometimes provide information like badge numbers, names of actual law enforcement officials and federal judges, and courthouse addresses. They may also spoof their phone numbers to appear on caller IDs as if they are calling from a government agency or the court.

One of the most recent scams works like this: Someone impersonating a Customs and Border Protection officer calls the potential victim stating CBP has acquired packages containing illegal substances sent from Mexico and Colombia that are addressed to the victim. Additionally, the victim is told some of the packages are addressed to two locations in El Paso, Texas, which are also deeded to the victim. The scammer then proceeds to tell the victim that multiple bank accounts in the victim’s name with Bank of America, Chase, TD Ameritrade, and Wells Fargo indicate the victim is wiring money to Mexico and Colombia.

The scammer then provides identity confirming information to the victim by reading old residential addresses, phone numbers, and other personally identifying information that seem to make their claims legitimate. The scammer then provides his personal ID# A40922, case number #DMC701029 for the investigation, and warrant number #024069798, and then notifies the victim that the State of Texas is investigating this illegal activity. They are then told the State of Texas is holding the victim responsible unless the victim can prove the criminal activity associated with them is the result of identity theft. The call then ends with the scammer advising the victim that they will be re-contacted by an investigating official.

A short time later, the victim is contacted by another individual identifying himself as a United States Marshal who is looking into the case. The scammer reviews the previous conversation the victim had with the scammer posing as a CBP official, and tells the victim there are two ways to resolve the issue: 1) hire a criminal lawyer to represent the victim in front of a court in Texas. Through the court process, the victim will either be exonerated or convicted. If convicted, the victim will face approximately a year in jail and pay a $10,000 fine. Option 2) Complete an Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) where the victim could verify which funds in their bank accounts are actually theirs. The victim is instructed to stay on the phone so the conversation can be recorded and used as proof of the victim’s compliance.

The victim is then instructed to withdraw “80% of their physical assets” and deposit them into a personal digital wallet (Bitcoin) while saving withdrawal receipts and deposit receipts to be reviewed by the investigating official once a meeting can be established. The victim is then told their money will be held for 24 hours while the victim is issued a new Social Security Number, if their identity was, in fact, stolen. The victim is then told their money will be transferred back to them once the process is completed and the victim will be cleared of any criminal wrongdoing. The number appearing in the caller ID displays as the office number of the US Marshals Service, and maybe a specific judicial district. The victim is instructed to confirm the authenticity of the caller by visiting the U.S. Marshals Service website.

The scammer instructs the victim to send a photo of their driver’s license to a phone number provided by the scammer. The victim is then instructed to send the QR code scanned at the Bitcoin deposit kiosks.

There have been many victims with losses in the tens of thousands of dollars. The U.S. Marshals Service receives inquiries daily from victims and potential victims of this scam.

If you believe you were a victim of such a scam, you are encouraged to report the incident to your local FBI office and to the Federal Trade Commission.

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

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