Monday, May 5, 2014
The Texas Attorney General’s Office has opened a criminal investigation into a scheme by identity thieves who are posing as employees of the Texas Attorney General’s Office in an attempt to steal the identities of targeted individuals – particularly individuals who have applied for a short-term loan.
Just last month, nearly 200 Texans reported receiving repeated telephone calls from criminals posing as employees with the Texas Attorney General’s Office. These imposters typically inform their victims that the Attorney General’s Office has launched a criminal investigation against him or her and claim that an arrest warrant has been issued due to the resident’s purported failure to repay a short-term loan.
Once victims are alarmed about the prospect of a warrant being issued for their arrest, the identity thieves seek to “confirm” the resident’s Social Security number and other personal information such as address and employer. After the unwitting victim divulges this sensitive personal information, the caller claims that the entire matter can be resolved if the victim immediately pays off their short-term loan. The victim is then told to go to a nearby convenience store, purchase a pre-paid debit card, load it with cash, and call back the identity thief to provide the number off the back of the card. After receiving the card number, the imposter can both steal the funds on the card and use the victim’s sensitive personal financial information to steal their identity.
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.
Many Texans who reported this scheme to our office recognized that the payment demand was a scam and refused to share their card number with the imposters. Unfortunately, other residents reported giving more than $2,000 to the imposters. Texans who believe they have been a victim of this impersonation scam should 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.
As with many ploys to obtain individuals’ personal information, it is likely that many of these imposters are actually thousands of miles away – often in other countries and out of reach of U.S. law enforcement. Pre-paid debit cards, the payment form demanded under this scheme, are now preferable to swindlers; the cards are more convenient than a money wire – and just as untraceable.
This impersonation ploy is particularly effective because it causes victims to react immediately out of fear that they are facing criminal investigation by the Attorney General’s Office, rather than taking the time to consider the information being requested.
Again, no representative of the Office of the Attorney General ever solicits immediate payments or issues arrest warrants against Texans due to nonpayment of short-term loans. The OAG typically only pursues arrest warrants against individuals who are wanted for contempt of court because of their failure to make regular child support payments.