Scammers, feeding on people’s fear that they could be erroneously targeted for investigation by a law enforcement agency because of their Internet activity, have been calling potential victims and demanding money, SLED said in a news release issued Thursday.
The state law enforcement agency said it had received reports from several individuals about a phone call from someone identifying himself as SLED chief Mark Keel or some other special investigative officer. The caller claimed that the potential victim was being investigated for activities in internet chatrooms and for sharing “inappropriate communications or photographs” with a person who turned out to be a child.
The tactic the scammers used would never be employed by SLED or any legitimate law enforcement agency, SLED said. The scammers are merely trying to extort money from their victims.
Here’s how the scam works, SLED warned.
The scammers, claiming to be adults, hang out in internet chat rooms and gather information about other participants, including contact information. And they exchange photographs – not of children – that if exchanged with an adult are perfectly legal, but if exchanged with a minor are illegal.
A caller impersonating Keel or other officer then calls to inform the potential victim that someone the victim has interacted with online is not an adult but is a child. The potential victim is told to expect a call from the child’s “father” at a specific time to arrange payment to have the investigation and planned arrest dropped.
SLED said if you receive such a call, you should hang up immediately. A complaint can also be filed with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.