Your Cookies are Disabled! NationalNotary.org sets cookies on your computer to help improve performance and provide a more engaging user experience. By using this site, you accept the terms of our cookie policy. Learn more.

Beware Fake Police Phone Scam Targeting Notaries

Telephone scammers posing as members of law enforcement are targeting Notaries across the country, threatening to jail them unless they pay a “bond” or “fine” of thousands of dollars.

The scam is a variation of one that has been used for years targeting members of the general public. However, in recent weeks the Notary Bulletin has been receiving reports from various Notaries around the country who have been targeted specifically because they are Notaries.

Various law enforcement agencies — including the U.S. Marshal’s Service and police departments in California and Texas — have posted warnings about scams like this. The overriding message from authorities is that they will never contact people by phone and ask for any type of payment in order to avoid arrest. Anyone who does so is trying to scam you.

According to the U.S. Marshal’s Service, the con artists employ a variety of tricks to appear credible. “They sometimes provide information like badge numbers, names of actual law enforcement officials and judges, and courthouse addresses. They may also spoof their phone numbers to appear on caller IDs as if they are calling from a government agency or the court.”

How The Scammers Target Notaries

The scammers targeting Notaries employ all the above tactics and then go a step farther by researching the specific Notary they are targeting.

  • They often know the Notary’s full name, address and sometimes their Notary commission number.
  • They spoof the phone numbers of local police departments, so they appear on the victim’s caller ID; and they use the names of real police officers.
  • They specifically tell the Notary victims that the cases involve them as witnesses regarding a notarization they performed, and that they failed to show at a court proceeding.

Once the scammers get the Notary on their cell phones, the victims are told they cannot hang up, or they will be arrested immediately. The victims also are told they cannot put their phones on speaker, tell anyone what is going on or bring anyone with them.

A Notary Signing Agent from Riverside County, California, who asked not to be identified, said she asked if she could tell her husband. The scammer said they would arrest him and take him to jail if she did.

The callers generally demand $5,000 to $6,000 as a “bond.” The scammer keeps the Notary on the phone while they drive to ATMs, banks and other locations trying to raise the cash and make the transfer.

The scammers tell victims to withdraw cash and transfer it to the government, purchasing a prepaid debit card such as a Green Dot card or gift card and read the card number over the phone to satisfy the fine, or by depositing cash into bitcoin ATMs.

Notaries’ Harrowing Accounts

The Riverside County NSA said the caller “kept me on the phone the whole way. I really felt like I was being kidnapped. My husband was going crazy.” She said the scammer called her on a Sunday night and made her go on a 2-hour trek to try to use all her debit and credit cards to get the cash. He finally told her to buy Visa gift cards and instructed her to mail them to the U.S. Treasury. He even provided a legitimate address. But the Notary also had to give the caller the card numbers as proof that she had purchased them.

It wasn’t until after she had given the numbers of $3,800 worth of gift cards that an attorney friend was able to reach her and tell her it was a scam.

Kristin Fink of Waynesville, Illinois, who got her Notary commission last October and became an NSA in February of this year, said she got a call on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend from someone claiming to be an officer from a nearby town. The caller said she had failed to appear as a witness regarding a document she notarized for a federal sexual misconduct case.

Fink acknowledged some red flags. Among other things, the caller said she had been issued a subpoena in January, but Fink did not start notarizing until February. Still, the fact that the caller ID showed the real number for the local police department, used the name of a real police officer and knew her Notary business address made her think everything was real.

While driving to the nearby town to comply with the caller’s instructions, the call got cut off.

She immediately dialed the number of the local police department to reconnect and discovered the scam.

“Even with me having a little bit of legal knowledge, they had me scared,” Fink said. “I sure didn’t want them to come and arrest me.”

Marilyn Reed, an NSA from Osceola, Indiana, said the scammers had her going for almost 2 hours. She went so far as to get a cash advance on her credit card. However, she realized it was a scam because the link the caller tried texting her to make the transfer did not come through.

“They kept calling back and threatening to come and get me and put me in jail,” Reed said. “It took me about 10 days before I could talk about it.”

Two accounts noted that the Notaries spoke to at least two individuals, and one of them had a heavy, Southern accent.

Where Scammers Find Information About Notaries

Perhaps the most frightening and convincing aspect of this scam is the fact that the callers know so much information about their intended Notary victims. 

“I have a Facebook page for business,” Fink said. “It has my address and phone number on it. Notaries also are listed on the Secretary of State’s website.”

“There is a lot of information out there about Notaries,” said the Riverside County Notary.

That is particularly true for Notary Signing Agents. Between profiles on NSA listing websites, personal websites, social media pages and state databases, it is relatively easy to mine extensive information about potential victims.

However, if you are a targeted by one of these scam calls, do not provide money or financial information to the caller. Please contact your local police department immediately.

You also can share your story with the NNA’s Facebook community.

Michael Lewis is Managing Editor of member publications for the National Notary Association. 

 

 

 

 

 

9 Comments

Add your comment

cal

29 Jun 2020

why

Gerald Villella

29 Jun 2020

What is this?

blainecountynotary@gmail.com

29 Jun 2020

I can't believe any notary with a brain cell would fall for this. Are you kidding me?

Cheryl Kaster

29 Jun 2020

Any Notary who would fall for this is a prime target for fraud in any notarial request and should resign their commission immediately. To believe a phone call such as this is legitimate would buy anything let alone know how to know when they are actually being scammed? Do they know how to vet an I.D. to determine it is legitimate? Do they know how to determine if the signer is willing and aware or that they even know they are supposed to do this? Amazing!@!

JB

29 Jun 2020

I got a call from these scammers. He told me I was supposed to be in court, that I was a key expert witness in a court case involving a family. I told him he had the wrong person because I don't know any families that are having issues, and I insisted he was mistaken. I challenged the guy too much, we were disconnected so I re dialed his number, got the real Police Dept. who promptly told me there were no men in there office where outgoing calls were made, they were phishing and would have soon asked for money. I admit that it did rattle me for a few minutes. It is interesting to know these crooks are targeting Notaries. Scumbags.

Janet

30 Jun 2020

California requires us to be bonded. Why would someone fall for this on any level?

Christiana Hayes

01 Jul 2020

Notaries today must be vigilante about be stalked either by phone, emails, texting or in my case physically "shadowed" by two men who were somewhat "trained" in surveillance (I think they were more at a store security level think Rent A Cop here). We think it had been going on for sometime also (from July 2019 to April 2020) and we are positive who is behind it since hiring someone to engage in this costs around $500 to $1,000 a day. We also thought they used GPS Tracking on my vehicle that was parked at a building for "a meeting". Since our vehicles are always parked in our garage. My point is if you are a Notary you need some training in counter surveillance. My career spans from being a Court Reporter, Notary, Process Server and volunteering for a non profit law office. I learn decades back to protect myself and you'd be shocked at what I have "caught" attempting to gain access to my professional and private information.

HCHAYES100@gmail.com

01 Jul 2020

All notaries should invest some time in becoming educated in counter surveillance. As a notary, process server and retired stenographer being trained has really assisted me in protecting both my profession and personal life. In 2019 I caught two shady men shadowing me. I know who hired them. They used GPS Tracking on my car while I was at a meeting. Pay attention to those Red Flags.

Joyce K Marciel

08 Jul 2020

In reading the comments I am surprised that a few are very quick to pass judgment regarding the character of any notary who might fall victim to this scam. I do agree that a person should know better than to buy gift cards to pay off a debt, but keep in mind there are varying levels of this scam. Here is my experience from yesterday in California: I received a phone call which was identified on caller ID as our local sheriff’s office. I was told I had two outstanding warrants from a Sacramento court for failure to appear and contempt of court, regarding testimony as an expert witness on June 8th. I told the “detective” that I know nothing about that and was insistent that it was a mistake. Rather than attempt to extort money from me at this point, he agreed to make an appointment for the next day at our local sheriff’s office so I could provide a handwriting sample to compare to that of the subpoena, as well as post a surety bond. I too was told I couldn’t talk to anyone about this. At this point I was unaware of the scam, and was more than happy to go to the sheriff’s office to clear this up. The caller knew the address of the court in Sacramento as well as the address of the local sheriff’s office, so the only red flag was the fact that I was not guilty. The caller said he would contact me by phone 15 minutes before the appointment, which is when I expect he would try to begin another tactic to keep me from going into the sheriff’s office. Later that evening I found the bulletin on the NNA site, which confirmed this was a scam. I called the phone number on my caller ID, and the local sheriff’s office answered. I explained the situation and they confirmed there was no appointment, and that they would not contact anyone by phone regarding outstanding warrants. So when the scammer calls me later today, I will be ready for him. Thank you to JB for your June 29th comment. It was very similar to what I experienced.

Leave a Comment

Required *

All comments are reviewed and if approved, will display.