Tarrant County CDA Warns Residents of Telephone Scams

Tarrant County CDA Warns Residents of Telephone Scams
Hooded man holding phone to call and scam people. | Image by Getty Images

The Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney (CDA) issued a press release on February 25 warning area residents of an ongoing telephone scam targeting middle-aged males. The scammers are using technology to make it appear as though the calls are originated from the Tarrant County CDA office. 

Victims are being extorted by callers posing as employees of the Tarrant County CDA office. The victims are informed that they are suspected of violating laws as a result of internet searches for massage parlors or sex-based websites. Victims are told that if they do not pay a fine, they will be prosecuted for illegal sexual conduct.

The scammers are telling victims to pay fines in incremental amounts through bitcoin machines or kiosks. The location of the kiosks is provided by the scammer. According to the Tarrant County CDA, the scam has resulted in victims losing an estimated $300,000 so far, and they believe more people may have been impacted who have yet to report the crime to law enforcement.

“No one from my office will ever contact anyone and tell them to pay fines to bitcoin machines,” Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson said. “If you are contacted, fight back – report the crime to police. Don’t be the next victim.” 

Cryptocurrency, such as bitcoin, is a popular payment method for scammers and criminals as there is limited tracking of funds and almost no way for victims to recover the money. The Federal Trade Commission warns that cryptocurrencies are not insured by the Federal government, so there is no obligation for the government to assist users of the digital funds in the event they are swindled, the company they store money with goes out of business, or in the event that hackers steal funds.

Data compiled by the FTC indicates that since October 2020, there has been an explosion of scams involving cryptocurrency. Between October 2020 and May of the following year, the FTC received more than 7,000 reports of cryptocurrency scams and reported losses to victims of more than $50 million. Losses in the first quarter of 2020 were reported at about $5 million.

Investigators say the scam is successful for a number of reasons, including that the calls appear to originate from the Tarrant County CDA office. Investigators warn the public that in a criminal matter, an individual will never be contacted by telephone. They remind people that fees and fines are paid to the courts, not to law enforcement. 

The use of online and telephone scams involving cryptocurrency has exploded because many people are unfamiliar with the new funds. People are not sure how best to handle situations in which they risk potentially exposing damaging information should the scammer be an actual investigator. 

The largest population group that reports scams are males between the ages of 20 and 49. Fewer scams are reported by senior citizens, but some experts believe that the lower numbers may be a result of underreporting, as many people are embarrassed to admit they were swindled. 

Police warn that anyone who receives a telephone call, email, text message, or a message on social media from someone claiming to be part of law enforcement or the courts and demanding payment of alleged fines in cryptocurrency is facing a scam. Reporting scams can be done by contacting the Tarrant County CDA’s office at 817-884-1400 or to the FTC online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

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