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The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration released a scam warning bulletin to advise the public of a widespread fraud scheme on March 3, 2021. Scammers phone potential victims claiming to be DEA agents with the intent of extorting money or stealing personal information.
In a new public service announcement video, the agency seeks to raise awareness that agents would never phone individuals to demand money. DEA personnel would never contact individuals or medical practitioners and ask the victim to demand money, divulge personal or sensitive information like bank account or social security numbers.
Scammers use a variety of narratives surrounding fictional drug seizures or other DEA complaints. A target could receive a phone call informing them that their name was used to rent a car that was stopped at the border. They claim the vehicle contains illegal drugs. The con-artist will ask the victim to verify their SSA number or advises them that their bank account has been compromised.
In some instances, the caller will threaten to arrest them for the drug seizure. The person is instructed to send money using a gift card or wire transfer to satisfy the fictional fine or help with the so-called investigation.
Victims have also been told that sending funds will help with resetting their bank account.
Swindlers have also used sophisticated techniques like spoofing verifiable DEA phone numbers to convince the person of the call’s legitimacy. Some targets received text messages that included images of seemingly valid law enforcement credentials and an officer’s photo.
Although the reported tactics continuously change, they often share many of the same components.
Schemers use fake names and badge numbers. They have used the names of well-known DEA officials or identify themselves as police officers from local departments.
The DEA reports:
- Scammers may “use an urgent and aggressive tone, refusing to speak to or leave a message with anyone other than their targeted victim.”
- They threaten to arrest, prosecute, imprison the target.
- In the case of medical practitioners and pharmacists, the con-artist may threaten to revoke their DEA registration.
- Shysters may claim patients are filing accusations against a medical practitioner and reference National Provider Identifier and/or state license numbers.
The Best Deterrence Against Scammers In Awareness and Caution
Remember that DEA personnel does not contact individuals or medical practitioners using the telephone to demand money or any other payment form. They will never require anyone to provide personal or sensitive information over the phone. The DEA will notify someone of a lawful investigation or legal action in person or by an official letter.
No legitimate federal law enforcement officer would ever demand gift cards or cash from a member of the public.
Anyone who receives a call from someone claiming to be with the DEA should report the incident to the ¹FBI at the link listed below. ²The FTC takes reports and provides recovery steps. Moreover, the reported information is shared with more than 3,000 law enforcement agencies. Victims who provided a scammer with identifiable information can learn how to protect against ³identity theft.
By filing reports about these scam calls, targets will aid federal authorities in locating, arrest, and stop the criminals involved. Impersonating a federal agent violates the law and is punishable for up to three years in prison. Also, individuals committing aggravated identity theft will spend a minimum of two years in prison and be ordered to pay fines and restitution.
Both the DEA and AARP websites notify consumers of possible threats to their wellbeing. The AARP has a fraud watch network to share information about scams and ask the public to report anything not noted or provide updated data.
You should only give money, gift cards, personally identifiable information, including bank account information to someone you know.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
DEA Warning: Scammers Impersonating DEA Agents
AARP: AARP’s Fraud Watch Network Keeps You Aware of Scams
Noted Links: ¹FBI: www.ic3.gov; ²Federal Trade Commission: reportfraud.ftc.gov; ³Identity Theft: www.identitytheft.gov
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Elvert Barnes’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License