'Believable scam': Officials warn of phone hoax that spoofs real FBI number


HOUSTON – Callers are posing as federal employees to trick Houstonians into paying them thousands of dollars.

An FBI agent explained how the "sophisticated scam" works.

The FBI said it first started seeing the scam in Corpus Christi, and it has spread to the Greater Houston area. Officials said the scam is so sophisticated, they want to warn the public.

"This is a very believable scam," agent Connor Hagan said.

The scam targets Houstonians through their phones.

"We've recently seen a spike in complaint calls from Houston citizens, contacting the federal court as well as the FBI stating that they've been called by the federal court basically asking for money in return for taking care of an outstanding warrant or a jury summons that wasn't fulfilled. This is a scam," Hagan said.

The biggest concern is that the numbers the perpetrators are spoofing are real.

"The federal courts number, we saw the U.S. Marshals number, we saw the FBI number all being spoofed," Hagan said.

In the Houston area, the FBI said they've only seen the federal courts number being spoofed.

The crooks use technology to fake a real number on your caller ID and then sell it by saying they work with the authorities.

"This is sounding like an actual federal employee, demanding money in exchange for a service," Hagan said.

The FBI is now warning citizens never to give out money over the phone and to report all suspicious calls.

"No federal agent, no federal employee is ever going to call and say, 'Hey, in exchange for us taking care of this minor criminal issue, if you give us $250 you're in the clear.' We don't do that," Hagan said.

If you're unsure about a call, the FBI said you can call the agency directly and ask.

"This is our community. This is where our friends and our family live. We want to protect them, and by giving them this information, through our partners with KPRC, we hope to do that," Hagan said.

The FBI said a good rule of thumb is if it doesn't feel right, chances are it isn't. The FBI is asking anyone who has received a suspicious call to let them know. You can also submit a tip to www.ic3.gov.