Lawmakers warn Mainers not to pay ‘fines’ by credit card to fake U.S. marshals and officials.

The U.S. Marshals Service issued a warning Tuesday about a nationwide phone scam involving criminals posing as U.S. marshals, court officers or other law enforcement officials.

The impostors urge their victims to pay a fine in lieu of arrest for failing to report to jury duty or other fabricated offenses, according to a statement issued by the marshals service.

The scammers tell their victims that they can avoid arrest by purchasing a prepaid debit card such as a Green Dot card or gift card. Victims are then asked to read their newly purchased card number over the phone in order to pay their debt.

“These are not victimless crimes,” said Noel March, U.S. marshal for Maine. “People have lost thousands of dollars to these scammers. This can be devastating, especially during the holidays.” March said the telephone scammers use many tactics to sound credible. They often provide badge numbers, names of law enforcement officials, federal judges and courthouse addresses. They may also “spoof,” or fake, their phone numbers to appear on caller ID as if they are calling from the court or a government agency.

“The U.S. Marshals would never ask for a credit/debit or gift card number or banking routing numbers or ask for funds to be wired for any purpose,” March said.

If the caller is urging a person to provide this type of information, the person should hang up and report the incident to authorities or to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov.

March said the FTC has the ability to detect patterns of fraud by using the information provided by a victim. The information can be shared with local police and could possibly lead to an arrest.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]