The phone scam that has ensnared the Kansas City Police Department has spread nationwide.
“What we’ve found is that the phone calls coming into our police department have increased and the locations have increased across the nation as well,” said KCPD spokesman Capt. Lionel Colon. "Most of the individuals targeted are from southern regions in the United States."
The scam is called spoofing and it surfaced Tuesday. "You can make it appear as if you’re calling from any number, any name, anywhere,” Det. Lori Meadors, who is investigating the scam, told KCUR. It is also a very difficult crime to solve because, police say, it's almost impossible to trace the call to its real origin.
The scam works like this: The crook calls someone, and the main KCPD number pops up on caller ID. They then tell the victim that their loved one has been arrested and needs money for bail or a lawyer. "We as a police department never call and solicit funds," Colon said.
As the calls continue to mount, so does the frustration for police. “When they see the police number pop up they fall for the scam,” Meadors said.
KCPD advised that if you suspect the call is spoofing, just hang up.
Spoofing is not new, and it is unusual but not unprecedented to use a law enforcement agency as part of the crime.
In 2016, the FBI in St. Louis warned that spoofers were using its phone number in a scheme targeting college students. The agency said in a news release that the caller would claim the victim was delinquent on student loans, taxes, or parking tickets.
The Better Business Bureau warned this summer of something called neighbor spoofing. "Neighbor spoofing uses a spoof caller ID to trick a person into thinking somebody local, possibly even someone they know, is calling," the BBB said in an online story.
The BBB gives the same advice as police—just hang up. It also suggests downloading a call blocking app and making sure your phone is on the National Do Not Call Registry.