If you ever receive a phone call and hear some variation of that sentence, you need to be aware that you are being scammed. Over the last two years, I have received a call about once every few months with a person dealing with a similar situation.

The scam I  most often hear is that the victim will meet someone on an online dating website and eventually begin texting with them. The person they are texting with will send an explicit photo and then admit that they are actually under the age of 18. What happens next is the victim will receive a phone call or text, from a local area code, and the person on the other end will say that it was their child who sent the explicit picture. The next part varies, but it always involves some reason they now need money from the victim. The reason can vary from, “I want you to pay for counseling for my child” to “I was so mad when I found out I broke my computer”. They then ask the victim to send them a money order to pay for the damages or they will go to the police. 

Now at this point a decision has to be made, do you send them a payment or not? Either way, the next step is the same. In this scam, no matter whether the victim sends the initial payment or not,  a fake police officer, sheriff, or state trooper will call them and say they are handling the case. If the victim has not paid the initial payment, they will encourage the victim to pay the parents or he or she will be forced to come arrest them and press charges. It is important to note that no police officer will decline investigating child pornography charges just because you sent the parents some money. If the victim did make the initial payment, the fake police officer will tell them that, “I have opened up a case, but if you send me a money order, I will not follow through with the investigation”. This pattern will continue on, until you stop sending the money.

In this scam they are relying on two responses to get money from you. The first is plain and simple fear. Even if you did not ask for the explicit picture, it is on your phone now and the last thing you want is your name in the paper related to a child pornography charge. So, you are willing to consider paying them to make it all go away. The second response is to an authority figure. The simplest part of this is just pretending to be a police officer, but as this scam has gone along, they have began using new technology that allows them to “spoof” a different phone number. What that means is that they can make their number show up on your phone as the police department’s number or the Sheriff’s number. This obviously frightens someone when they receive a call showing up as the Sheriff’s office and the person on the other end is demanding that you send a money order immediately.

Now this scam can be ran a variety of ways. I have heard of the scammers calling and saying your child has been arrested and you need to give us a credit card payment for them to be released. What you need to be aware of is no police officer should ever ask you to send them money. If money is owed in a case that should be handled through the prosecution or you should have an attorney invovled. Also, most of these scams involve sending a money order to a completely different state. It is little clues like this that can help you determine whether a call is real. If you receive a call like this, you should ask for the callers name and badge number and then contact an attorney.