Policeman on phone

Police warn of fake law enforcement arrest warrant calls

Brownsville Police Department is warning about scammers impersonating law enforcement in order to extract money from potential victims. The scam involves pressure from an immediate threat, several ways to extract yourself from this non-existent claim of wrongdoing, and multiple levels of officialdom to scare you into making a wrong move. 

How the fake warrant call works

Calls from individuals pretending to be energy suppliers offering discounts, or fake parcel delivery firms are all the rage at the moment. However, don’t discount fake law enforcement ploys! The way this scam works is as follows:

  1. You receive a call from someone claiming to be in law enforcement. This individual knows at least some of your personal information, though there’s no indication as to where they obtained it. Depending on your region, they may claim to be city, county, state, or federal law enforcement officers. This specific technique is aimed at residents of the US, though it can of course be tailored to work anywhere.

  2. The victim is informed that there is a warrant out for their immediate arrest. In fact it’s so immediate that the scammer claims they will visit your house and place you under arrest there and then. The only way to get out of this entirely fictitious predicament and avoid going to fake jail is to pay a fee or a fine via payment apps such as Zelle or Cash App, or gift cards.

Not this scam’s first rodeo

This isn’t the only time such a scam has been reported by Brownsville Police Department. Back in 2020, they alerted residents of the following scam attempt doing the rounds:

“…a group of scammers impersonating county judges and Brownsville Police Department Officers. These scammers are calling people via telephone telling them they have warrants for their arrests and that they have to pay a fine. The scammers are requesting credit card information and over the phone payment.”

Somewhere along the way, the Judges apparently dropped out of the scam leaving only law enforcement doing the heavy lifting. Perhaps they thought Judges supposedly making these calls is a little bit too unbelievable. You may be tempted to assume the same for police, but consider that these calls are entirely based around the pressure point of “Pay this fine, or we’re coming to arrest you immediately”. This is absolutely not something you want to hear down the phone out of the blue, and how many people would stop to question such a thing when put on the spot?

Ways to avoid this bogus warrant fakery

Brownsville PD has the following advice for anyone who may be on the receiving end of one of these calls:

1. Get the caller’s name, phone number, and agency.

2. Tell them you are going to contact the agency with the warrant, not the number they give you.

3. Call the agency that has the warrant, and verify the person by name. Get the agency’s phone number via the internet.

4. If the call was a scam, report it immediately to the proper authorities.

Law enforcement asking directly for payment on pain of immediate arrest is simply not a thing which is going to happen. Nobody wants to receive an unpleasant call like the ones mentioned above, but if you do receive something along these lines: don’t panic. Ask the caller for as much information as possible, and inform them that you’re going to ring a number you’ve verified is the real deal. If the person calling is genuine, there should be no problem with you doing this. If they hesitate, or insist that this is a case of “do it now or else,” you can almost guarantee that this is a fake out.

Stay safe out there!

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Christopher Boyd

Former Director of Research at FaceTime Security Labs. He has a very particular set of skills. Skills that make him a nightmare for threats like you.