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Phone Extortion Scams

UC San Diego Police has received reports of a phone scam that threatens individuals with arrest if they fail to meet the scammer’s demands.

The phone call usually starts with a person identifying himself or herself as an IRS employee or police officer claiming to have an open case involving the victim in criminal activity or claiming that the victim's social security number has been used for illegal activity. The caller then:

  • Threatens the victim with arrest and imprisonment for a number of years
  • Asks the victim:
    • For his or her date of birth and social security number to check if they have been a victim of identity theft, "confirms” that the victim's identity has been stolen and advises the victim to secure their funds by withdrawing their money, converting it to Bitcoin and sending it to the caller, or
    • To purchase several $500 gift cards (e.g., GameStop, Home Depot, etc.) and provided the serial numbers via text

Note: The IRS and police will NEVER ask for any form of payment, including gift cards, to avoid an arrest.

Be Aware

  • Always be suspicious of phone calls from unknown individuals or phone numbers that you do not recognize.
  • Do not conduct business over the phone with callers you do not know.
  • Never share personal or financial information over the phone with someone you do not know, e.g., social security number, debit/credit/pre‐paid card numbers, etc.
  • If anyone contacts you and asks you to pay or send them money using Bitcoin, wire transfer, or pre‐paid cards of any sort, this is probably a scam.
  • If anyone calls asking for payment due to your involvement in a criminal case, hang up the phone and call your local police department.
  • If you cannot verify the caller’s identity, feel unsafe, or suspect criminal activity, call the UC San Diego Police Department:
    • Emergency, 911
    • Non-emergency help line, (858) 534‐4357