UPDATED CONSUMER ALERT: “Attorney General” Impostor Scam Targets Victims with Fraudulent “Arrest Warrant”
NEWARK – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs today issued an update to
last month’s warning about an ongoing scam in which con artists falsely pretend to represent the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office when seeking money from unsuspecting victims.
The Division has learned that, in addition to calling victims over the phone, scammers are mailing fraudulent “arrest warrants,” purportedly in the name of New Jersey’s Attorney General, in their attempt to intimidate victims into sending money.
A copy of the fraudulent “arrest warrant” sent to one prospective victim can be found
here. Its letterhead falsely states that the “warrant” was issued by the United States District Court. It falsely states that the victim is charged with criminal violations including “collateral check fraud” and “theft by deception,” and faces “a maximum sentence of 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $24,000.”
The fraudulent document directs the victim to pay an “outstanding balance” of $1,876.48, and to call a phone number with a 609 area code to arrange for a payment plan. The Division of Consumer Affairs has determined that the phone number, when called, is answered by perpetrators of the scam.
“This attempt to defraud people by appropriating the identity of our office is criminal, unconscionable, and deeply offensive,” Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. “Our message to New Jerseyans is very simple: Any time you receive a letter, email, or phone call that demands your money in the name of a government agency, do not engage with the person who contacted you. Instead, look online or in the phone book for a separate, legitimate phone number for the agency that supposedly reached out to you. Call the agency directly and ask if the communication you received was valid.”
Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee said, “Con artists are adept manipulating people. Don’t let yourself be manipulated, and don’t let yourself become a victim. Never respond immediately to anyone who demands your money or asks for your personal information. Stop, think, and verify the story you are being told.”
Government impostor scams – such as this “Attorney General” impostor scam, the well-known IRS scam, and others – are featured in the Division of Consumer Affairs’ new “Fighting Fraud” awareness program. “Fighting Fraud” educates and empowers New Jersey residents to recognize scams and prevent victimization.
Advice for Consumers:
Scammers often contact their victims by phone, email, text message, or letter. Though the details of each scam may differ, the goal is always to profit illegally at the victim’s expense – either through outright theft or through identity theft.
Consumers should never
send money, give away their
personal or financial information, or click on a
link or attachment, without first taking the time to make sure the communication they received is valid.
Consumers are advised to independently verify the information in an email, phone call, or letter. Use another source to find a separate phone number for the person or entity that supposedly made the communication, in order to verify whether it was genuine.
Just as important, consumers should never act without thinking. This is true especially when dealing with a sales pitch or a threat that says "you must act right away." And even more so if the consumer is told, "keep this confidential and don't tell anyone about this deal."
In this and other government impostor scams, con artists try to create a false sense of urgency. They will often demand secrecy, by demanding that the victim tell no one else about the payment. These criminals know that know consumers are much more likely to become victims if their emotions are higher – and if they are prevented from discussing the scam with a friend or relative.
The Division of Consumer Affairs educates senior citizens and other New Jerseyans through a robust schedule of public events.
Click here to see the Division's public outreach calendar. Consumers seeking information about fraud prevention can find additional information in the following, free publications on the Division's website:
- The Division's "Cyber Safe NJ" includes important consumer protection information on "The Basics of Cyber Safety," "Preventing Identity Theft," and "Controlling Your Privacy."
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of marketplace abuse, can file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its
website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.