Published 3:58 pm Friday, October 7, 2022
AHOSKIE – As he scanned the words of a text message he received on Tuesday of this week, Donnie Melton said he knew immediately something was askew.
“Most of it didn’t make sense; there were incomplete sentences and words that seemed to be missing,” said the Ahoskie resident.
The text message was purportedly sent by a man (Paul Johnson) who identified himself as a Special Agent working with the FBI Fraud Department. The first line of the message alleges the text was forwarded by the U.S. Marshals Service.
“This is a notification informing you without Western Union of red flag. Your name and at father,” the confusing message read.
The message continued by saying, “Report with the FBI you have 24 hours to give us a return call failure to do so will result in a warrant issued for your arrest.”
The alleged contact number was 360-686-2352.
“I called it….that number is in Washington State,” Melton said. “The man identified himself as Paul Johnson. He gave me his badge ID number.”
As the man pressed for personal information, Melton said he hung up.
“I knew something wasn’t right,” Melton stressed. “I called the US Marshals Service office in Charlotte and told them about my text message. I gave them the name and phone number on the text I received.”
Melton added he knew that neither the Marshals Service nor the FBI would alert someone by text of a pending arrest.
“If they are after you, they’ll come to your house with handcuffs,” he said.
Melton said he wanted to share what happened to him in an effort to make the public aware of such scams.
“Some may be unaware of things like this and will think the Marshals Service or the FBI is really looking to arrest them,” Melton said. “The scammers try to intimidate you in giving them your personal information or maybe try to bilk you out of your money.”
Melton also noted that the contact number supplied in the text message was “highlighted” – meaning it was a hyperlink.
“I didn’t click on it, cause if you do that’s a way for them to get inside your phone and steal all your information,” he noted.
Even though Melton didn’t give out any of his personal information or click on the hyperlink, he said he “played it safe” by changing the passwords he uses, especially ones pertaining to his bank account.
According to the U.S. Marshals Service website, scammers use many tactics to sound and appear credible. They sometimes provide information like badge numbers and/or names of actual law enforcement officials. Scammers may also spoof their phone numbers to appear on caller IDs as if they are calling from a government agency like the U.S. Marshals.
If you believe you were a victim of such a scam, you are encouraged to report the incident to your local FBI office and to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Things to remember:
U.S. Marshals will never ask for credit/debit card/gift card numbers, wire transfers, or bank routing numbers for any purpose.
Never divulge personal or financial information to unknown callers.
You can remain anonymous when you report.
The U.S. Marshals Service urges individuals to also report similar crimes to their local police departments. If you believe you are a victim of fraud, report the incident through the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov. Also, you should report online, business, or phone scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) immediately at www.reportfraud.ftc.gov.