New Phone Scam Threatens Legal Action, Arrest

If you receive a call threatening legal action against you and you know you've done nothing wrong, don't buy it.

It's a new kind of phone scam targeting Connecticut residents. The caller warns that you'll be arrested and says legal action is imminent.

NBC Connecticut's Audrey Washington was on the receiving end of one of these scam calls.

"We have received a legal case against you and for that reason you will be getting arrested from your physical address or your workplace. If you need any further information, you can definitely reach me... See you in the courthouse," the caller said in a voicemail.

Knowing that she had no pending lawsuits against her, Washington decided to return the call.

A man identifying himself as Allen Brown with the John Hill Law Firm answered the phone. Again, he told Washington two lawsuits had been filed against her, threatened to have her arrested and proceeded to ask for personal information including her full name, address and social security number.

When Washington refused to give out any information, the scammer hung up.

"It's certainly a scam," said Special Agent Daniel Curtin with the New Haven division of the FBI.

Curtin said criminal and civil processes are separate and will never be handled by the same person or entity.

"Just because you are getting sued, that does not mean that you are being arrested," explained Jim Bergenn, a partner at Shipman and Goodwin Law Firm. "In fact, when you're getting sued, I've never heard of a situation, ever in my 35 years of doing that, where by virtue of the civil suit, you've gotten arrested. It doesn't happen that way."

Scammers are, essentially, fear mongering, officials said.

"The average person might not know this, and out of fear and a sense of urgency, might make a bad decision," Curtin said.

Curtin said the FBI has encountered countless similar scams in which crooks threaten a problem before promising to resolve it for a price.

"They do it by volume," he said. "So if they contact 100 people and they get two or three who act and wire them money to make this go away, they've made their money."

Bergenn said the people getting scammed out of cash aren't the only victims in this case.

"Essentially, the scammers are hijacking the reputation of a legitimate enterprise or a legitimate law fire," he said.

A partner at the John Hill Law Firm in Northern California said the firm is in no way connection to the scam and said the firm receives complaints about the scheme at least twice a week. She said many of the victims are older and can end up handing over hundreds of dollars.

Curtin said it's important to use common sense if you receive a call you think may be a scam. Never react out of fear and always ask plenty of questions.

"In this case, if you slow it down long to enough to realize you haven't committed any crimes and you would not normally receive a call about the existence of an arrest warrant and a threat of an arrest at work or home, then you should realize that it's too bad to be true," Curtin said.

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