Attention, everyone with a phone line! Some phone scammers in the area are pretending to be law enforcement officers, claiming that someone might have a warrant out for their arrest, and demanding that the person pay a fee or risk going to jail.
These scammers are weaponizing law enforcement tactics against unsuspecting members of the public, and they intend to scare you into giving them your hard-earned money.
Over the past few days, the team at Kenny, Burns & McGill has been fielding calls from people with similar stories. The stories are all very similar: the victims tell us that they have been contacted by a member of “law enforcement” saying there is a warrant out against them. The “officer” then tells the person that they will be arrested… unless they pay some kind of fee.
If you have been getting suspicious phone calls from someone who says you will be in legal trouble unless you pay up, don’t get scammed; call the team at Kenny, Burns & McGill: (215) 423-5500
One instance of this scam came to us from a man who said he had been chatting with someone on a dating app and exchanged pictures with them; the “police” later called him to claim that the other person had been underage, and that they were going to issue a warrant for his arrest and label him a sexual predator. The “police” said that the only way to avoid an arrest and a criminal record would be to pay them several thousand dollars right away for an “expungement program”.
Of course, the program the “police” told him about wasn’t real, and the person he was chatting with probably wasn’t real either.
Another woman reported to us that a local number had been repeatedly calling her, claiming to be the sheriff’s department. The “sheriff” told the woman that she never reported for jury duty and that she disregarded two notices about the matter. The person on the phone claimed that there was a warrant out for her arrest, and that she had to pay a $250 fine for each “disregarded” notice for a total of $500.
Conveniently (for the scammer), she was told that she must pay this fine before stepping foot on government property, or she will be immediately arrested. This tactic works to scare people out of trying to verify whether the warrant is real.
Unfortunately, some of the people who’ve contacted us have already been swindled out of their money, which means it is highly likely that many people in the area have already been taken advantage of by these scammers. However, there are a few easy ways to protect yourself.
A law enforcement agency will never call you to demand money. Real police have specific procedures they must follow when investigating crimes. If they obtain a warrant for your arrest, they might contact you to inform you of a warrant, but they will not ask you to pay them any sort of money.
That said, even people who consider themselves to be law-abiding may have warrants put out against them from time to time; small things like failing to pay a parking ticket can sometimes cause the issuance of a warrant, which can result in a nasty shock during a routine traffic stop.
If you’re receiving calls telling you that you’ll be arrested unless you pay a fee, though, the simplest protective measure by far is do an online search of the number you’ve been getting messages from. If the number that’s been calling you shows up online as someone’s personal number or something non-law enforcement related, you may have identified a scam. Be careful, though; phone number spoofing has been around for years, and people can make it look like an official number is calling you even when it’s a scam.
We are aware of websites that claim to check police databases to see if you have any warrants against you for a “small fee;” many of these websites are also scams.
If you believe you may have a warrant, you should contact a criminal defense attorney right away. Criminal defense firms have experience with law enforcement practices and can safely and reliably inform you of any steps you must take to protect your rights. If it turns out that the warrant is real, that lawyer can then help you resolve it.
The criminal defense attorneys at Kenny, Burns & McGill have lots of experience with warrants in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
If you’ve been contacted about a warrant, contact us right away to learn the truth about what is going on: (215) 423-5500