Scam Alert: Con Artists Are Targeting Consumers Going Through Bankruptcy Court Proceedings
the callers claim that you owe money to the court that must be paid right away to avoid arrest, hoping you'll pay up before you have time to check them out
People going through bankruptcy proceedings are already hard-pressed for money, but that doesn't stop unscrupulous scammers from using them for a quick payday. Unfortunately, scammers are taking advantage of good people who fell on hard times and use fear to steal whatever money they have left. If you or anyone you know is going through bankruptcy proceedings, watch out for these signs of a scam.
Pay Now Or Else
Like other impostor scammers who pose as representatives of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or other government agencies, these callers claim that you owe money to the court that must be paid right away. They claim, falsely, that you will be fined or even arrested if you do not pay immediately. Unfortunately, consumers who are already facing the stress of bankruptcy sometimes fall for this tactic.
Often use Caller ID spoofing or courthouse locations
Unfortunately, it's very easy to spoof a caller ID, which means changing the number that displays on caller ID to something other than the number that is calling. This makes it very easy for scammers to trick unsuspecting victims into paying money. Scammers will often change the number that displays on the caller ID to reflect a local police department or the county courthouse. When you get the call, the caller ID might say "Raleigh Police Department" or "Wake County Courthouse," which causes many people to answer. That's when scammers really hone in. Just because a call seems like it is coming from a particular person, business or agency because of the caller ID does not mean the caller is legitimate.
If you are falling for the con, the scammers may suggest meeting at the courthouse or at the police department in order to pay the money. But you'll often get a follow up call once there advising of a late arrival and wanting a portion or all of the money to be paid via phone, usually with gift cards. In the end, the unsuspecting victim loses the money and never sees the scammer.
Often Want Gift Cards
The preferred method of payment for scammers is gift cards, which enables them to take your money with no possibility that you'll get it back. Gift cards, unlike credit cards, offer no protection for fraud or theft. So once you pay a scammer via gift card, your money is gone. In fact, as you are reading out the number on the gift card to the scammer, the scammer is already entering it into a computer to start the transfer of money. Before gift cards became so popular, scammers tried to get your money with a wire transfer. While not as popular anymore, scammers will still sometimes ask for wire transfers. So be alert.
If anyone contacts you and asks you to pay by gift card, it's certainly a scam. We know of no legitimate business that wants to be paid by gift card. And the state and federal governments do not accept gift cards in any way, opting instead for cash. Further, police departments will never collect any money, including fines. So if someone claiming to be from a police department wants money, say goodbye.
Don't Take the Bait
If you receive a phone call from someone claiming that you are facing legal trouble for your failure to appear at a bankruptcy hearing, that you owe money, or that threatens you in any way, hang up immediately. Court officials will never make these types of phone calls and will certainly never threaten you.
If you are suspicious of the legitimacy of a caller, you can contact the court at (919) 856-4752 before you take any other actions.