The US Department of Homeland Security has issued a warning about an elaborate scam in which victims are told they have accidentally funded terrorists, before being rescued by a scammer posing as a lawyer.
The inspector general of the DHS advised that scammers had been using publicly available law enforcement numbers, including the agency’s own field offices, to take money from unsuspecting people.
The con artist issues a friend request on apps ranging from Words with Friends, Facebook Messenger or any other phone-based app that boasts a chat feature, including dating apps. After befriending the potential victim, the scammer will then allude to some minor hardship that requires their new friend to send them a small amount of money. A scammer will then call the new “friend” from a spoofed law enforcement number posing as a cop or federal agent telling the victim “that the funds they provided the day before went to a criminal organization or terrorist group,” usually listing well-known examples such as the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) or Al-Qaeda.
The fake law enforcement ‘officer’ then threatens the victim with arrest and imprisonment before helpfully providing the contact number for a specialist “lawyer” who can help them out if their precarious situation, for a small “retainer” of just $1,000.