From UCPD Community Advisory:
Please be aware of a common government impersonation telephone scam that has targeted members of the campus community. Reporting these types of scams to authorities may help direct resources to combating the problem, but you should also know it can be difficult to identify and hold accountable the suspects in any specific incident. Recognizing and avoiding these schemes may be the most effective way to fight this kind of crime.
In this type of scam, the suspect typically makes contact by telephone or email and pretends to be a police officer, federal agent or some other government official. The suspect claims the victim has an arrest warrant, unpaid taxes or some other legal liability that must be paid immediately. In some cases, the suspect has personal information about the victim (likely from an old Internet data breach) and even “spoofs” their caller ID or email to make it appear they are legitimate. The suspect then demands immediate payment from the victim, often in the form of wire transfers, pre-paid debit cards, cryptocurrency or some other unusual method. The suspect will likely continue to make threats and demands for money until the victim stops cooperating.
Federal, state and local government officials do not demand immediate payment by telephone or email to prevent imminent arrest or collect taxes. If you actually owe taxes or face some other legal liability, the government must follow a routine procedure which allows you an opportunity to review and appeal the claim. In the case of criminal charges or a warrant, law enforcement agencies do not accept payment to prevent arrest — a court hearing is required.
If you are targeted by this type of scam, do not make any payments or provide any personal information to the suspect. End the communication. You might want to try to verify the caller’s claims, but find the government agency contact information yourself rather than relying on what the caller might provide. Preserve any information about the caller that you might have (messages, identifying information) in case you decide to file a police report. For more information about these types of scams, visit:
- US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – Scam alerts
- US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – Information on tax scams and consumer alerts
- US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) – Immigration scams
If you have concerns about possible identity theft:
- US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – Identity theft reporting and recovery
- California Office of the Attorney General (OAG) – Privacy enforcement and protection
To make a police report, contact your local law enforcement agency, or UCPD if the scam occurred on University property.
University Police (UCPD) – police.berkeley.edu
1 Sproul Hall, (510) 642-6760 (in an emergency dial 911)
Criminal investigations and law enforcement