Scam Artists Demand Payment in Lieu of Being Arrested
After a consumer presented himself at the Office of Attorney General concerned there was a warrant out for his arrest, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin is warning consumers to be aware of a new scam by someone claiming to be from the "Providence County Court."
According to the consumer who contacted the Office, he received a phone call from an individual claiming to be from "Providence County Court" to inform him there was a warrant for his arrest unless he paid a monetary fine by 2 p.m. either by a pre-paid debit card via telephone (the phone number provided to handle the payment was for a 'payment processing" company based in Michigan) or in person, at which time he provided the address for Providence City Hall to remit payment.
The phone number that appeared on the consumer's caller-ID was determined to be a number assigned to the Rhode Island Supreme Court clerk's office but it is a fax number within the clerk's office, not a telephone.
"This scam shows the high level of sophistication being employed to trick consumers. Taking a few bits of legitimate information, like spoofing a real phone number assigned to the Courts and knowing the address of City Hall, the scam artists lend just enough credibility to the call. Coupled with the fear of imminent arrest, consumers can easily be tricked into turning over money to protect their freedom or to comply with a law," said Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.
The Office of Attorney General confirmed that the Rhode Island Judiciary does not contact individuals for outstanding warrants, and no local or state law enforcement agency will accept a payment in lieu of arrest.
Attorney General Kilmartin warns consumers never to reveal personal identifying or financial information over the telephone to anyone claiming to be from the Courts, a government agency or a law enforcement agency. No legitimate government agency or law enforcement agency will demand payment from a pre-paid debit card to avoid arrest or sanctions.
"Informing my office when you've been contacted by a scam artist helps us warn other consumers before they are duped," added Attorney General Kilmartin. To report scams, please contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Unit at 401-274-4400 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with details of the scam.