Residents of Texas have been reporting a new scam by identity thieves who contact individuals and pretend to be employees of the Texas Attorney General’s Office (OAG).
The individuals attempt to scare consumers into believing the OAG is launching a criminal investigation and claim an arrest warrant has been issued for failure to repay short-term loans.
In a press release obtained from the OAG by Breitbart Texas, Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office revealed that last month alone, nearly 200 Texans reported receiving repeated telephone calls from these impersonators.
The scammers use the threat of criminal action to scare the victims into revealing Social Security and other identity information to “confirm” they have the right person. Once “confirmed” the scammer then informs the victim the criminal matter can be avoided by an immediate payment to clear up the debt owed. The scammers instruct the victim to go to a convenience store and purchase a pre-paid debit card and provide that information to the OAG imposter. The imposter then uses that information and the other confirming information to steal the person’s identity.
The OAG warns consumers:
Under no circumstances does a representative of the Office of the Attorney General solicit payments from Texans to pay off a short-term loan or grant immediately – nor does the Attorney General’s Office issue arrest warrants for this purpose. Any person who claims to be from the Attorney General’s Office and demands immediate fees to resolve the resident’s short-term debt or prevent an arrest for that debt is an imposter.
Some of the victims reported giving more than $2,000 to the scammers, while others recognized the attempt as a scam and contacted the OAG to report the crime.
The OAG asks Texans who believe they have been a victim of this impersonation scam to file a consumer complaint with the Office of the Attorney General online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov. Those who believe the scam put them at risk for identity theft should visit www.texasfightsidtheft.gov for a copy of the OAG’s Identity Theft Kit and also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov.
It is likely, according to the OAG, that these imposters may actually be thousands of miles away or even in other countries. The fear of arrest or prosecution makes some particularly susceptible to this type of scam and makes this a very effective crime.
Failing to pay a consumer debt like a short-term loan is not a criminal offense, and the OAG says it would never solicit payments for these types of debts or issue arrest warrants for this type of situation. The only situation in which the OAG pursues warrants for failure to pay a debt is against deadbeat parents who fail to pay child support and who are wanted for contempt of court.
More information about debt collection and protections for consumers from debt collectors can also be found online at the OAG’s Consumer Protection website.
If you have been, or know someone who has been affected by this type of scam, contact the OAG or local police immediately.
Follow Bob Price on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.