Seattle – The U.S. Attorney’s Office Western District of Washington has seen a recent increase in phone calls that “spoof,” or fake, the U.S. Attorney’s Office main phone number, so the call appears to originate from the office on the recipient’s caller ID. Fraudulent callers pose as a “Justice Department investigator.” The scammers attempt to use a fake name and nonexistent case number to trick the victim. The fraudsters have demanded money claiming it is “attorney fees” to resolve the case. In some instances, the scammers appear to have some personally identifiable information on the victim or have reviewed social media posts for information that makes their spiel sound credible.
Law enforcement defines this type of scam as government impersonation fraud, in which criminals impersonate government officials. The criminals often threaten to extort victims with physical or financial harm. Scammers are becoming more sophisticated and organized in their approach, are technologically savvy, and often target young persons and the elderly.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office staff will never ask for money or personally identifying information over the phone.
According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), 12,334 people reported being victims of government impersonation scams in 2020, with losses totaling more than $106 million. In Washington State in 2020, 358 victims reported $2 million in losses. Since January 1, 2021, 106 victims have already reported $777,045 in losses in Washington State. To protect yourself from falling victim to this scam, be wary of answering phone calls from unrecognized numbers. Do not send money to anybody that you do not personally know and trust. Never give out your personal information, including banking information, Social Security number, or other personally identifiable information, over the phone or to individuals you do not know.
Anyone who feels they were the victim of this or any other online scam should report the incident immediately using the IC3 website at 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.