Tysons, VA

The police departments for the Town of Vienna and City of Falls Church want people to be careful about phone scammers — especially ones pretending to be local police.

Falls Church officials put out a press release in late November warning locals of “a recent phone scam trend that spoofs, or fraudulently displays, actual Falls Church Police Department phone numbers on caller ID.”

“To further convince the recipient that the caller is a representative of the Falls Church Police Department, the scammer impersonates an actual Falls Church Police Department official and advises the victim to look up the phone number where the call is originating from,” the press release said. “The scammer then uses intimidation tactics, such as the threat of arrest, to demand payment of money purportedly owed to the government.”

Vienna police have also been dealing with the same issue.

“It is very strange,” Juan Vazquez, a spokesperson for the Vienna Police Department, told Tysons Reporter.

Since people are becoming more aware of the IRS phone spoofs, Vazquez said that scammers have realized that those calls aren’t as effective. The fraudulent police calls “are another variation of the same thing,” he said.

Vazquez said he doesn’t know how scammers get the police department numbers to display as the caller ID.

Fishy Phone Calls 

A review of the weekly crime highlights from the two police departments found several reported cases of residents receiving calls from people saying they were with the local police department.

In late November, Falls Church police received a report of “unknown suspect(s) purporting to be a retired Falls Church police officer called community members and falsely stated that they had outstanding warrants and demanded money.”

A man came to the Vienna Police Station in September “advising he was on the phone with someone claiming to be a Vienna Police Officer and they were attempting to defraud him of money,” according to a crime report.

“An officer attempted to speak to the caller; however, the caller hung up when the officer identified himself,” the report said. “The phone number the call initiated from was the Vienna Police non-emergency number.”

How to Stay Safe From Scammers

Vazquez advised that if people get a suspicious call claiming to be from the police department, Social Security Administration, IRS or other entity that they ask for the caller’s name, then hang up and call the organization the caller says they’re from to ask to speak to the caller. That way, the person can verify whether or not the person works there.

Falls Church police advise a similar strategy, urging people to call the Falls Church police’s non-emergency number 703-241-5050 (TTY 711) to confirm if the caller is a legitimate official.

“Indicators of scam calls are threats, orders to not hang up and other statements about immediacy,” Falls Church police say. “Never give out personal information — such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden names, or passwords — in response to unexpected calls if you are at all suspicious.”

Both police departments have said they do not make calls in an attempt to collect money.

“The City of Falls Church Police Department will never call and request payment for fines, traffic tickets, or bail over the phone,” the Falls Church press release said. “All these transactions are conducted by the respective court systems and never over the phone. Police will also never call an individual to threaten arrest or remove an arrest warrant.”

More from Falls Church police:

Caller ID spoofing is a scam that deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise the scammer’s identity as well as appearing as an official organization or entity. Spoofing is often used as part of an attempt to trick someone into giving away valuable personal information so it can be used in fraudulent activity or sold illegally.

Scammers will oftentimes know the victim’s full name and their extensive background, such as birth date and names of family members.

You may not be able to tell right away if an incoming call is spoofed.

People who receive suspicious calls can file a report about attempted fraud with the Fairfax County Police Department and visit the Federal Communications Commission’s “Caller ID Spoofing” webpage for information on spoofing scams.

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