A new version of an old Scam . . .

New Scam comes to our area:

I got word of a new money scam last week. It involves a college aged man who allegedly received a phone call from a police officer, claiming that if he did not pay up on a civil claim that very day, he would be charged with felonies. It sounded unbelievable, and ultimately was a scam. Here is the general summary:

John Doe, Jr. is 20 years old. One night after preparing homework for a class in school, he received a phone text from someone who identified herself as a single 18 year-old female. She had gotten his number apparently from his FaceBook profile. After engaging in a brief chat, she solicited a nude photo of John. He hesitated, so she sent him one of herself, topless. After additional coaxing, it appears that John may have at least partially complied with the female’s request. (Big mistake!)

The next day, John received a call from the number, from someone who identified himself as the father of a 14 year-old girl who was supposedly on the receiving end of a nude photo of John, age 20. The ‘father’ told him that if he bought $800 in retail gift cards from an approved retailer, and sent the codes to him via a message, that the matter would be forgotten. But failure to pay up would result in criminal prosecution. John elected not to discuss the matter, and hung up.

About an hour later, another man called John’s phone from a different number. Identifying himself as a police officer, the other man said that John should pay the $800 and let the matter go unreported, because otherwise, John could face serious criminal prosecution. John then went to his mother, and explained to her what had happened. John was certain that he had done noting illegal, but was worried about the call from a police officer. Nothing became of the calls, which were an obvious scam

There is no legitimate reason for a police officer to assist someone in demanding money to cover up an alleged crime. It would be participating in an extortion scheme, and a sworn police officer would not risk his or her career to assist a person seeking to extort money from the young man. This was the third or fourth variation on a similar scam that I’ve heard about before, but it was the most convincing of them all.

A few words of advice here: First, don’t send texts to strangers that you would be ashamed to copy to your grandmother! And if you don’t abide by that rule, don’t believe a caller who demands money, not to report an alleged crime. Ever. Finally, if you have crossed a line between legal and illegal, any police officer who intervenes will likely be coming with a warrant to seize your electronic devices—without any warning, and for certain, without making any monetary demands for covering up potentially illegal activity!

When you are using an electronic device, you have no idea of an unknown caller’s actual age, or whether you are being solicited to commit a crime. If in doubt, contact a lawyer or local law enforcement. But above all, use common sense and decency in calls, texts and messages.

Jeff Morris, Attorney
(704) 647-0808

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