Convicted Pa. sex offenders targeted in new telephone scam
Telephone scammers have found a new target in Pennsylvania: registered sex offenders.
Pennsylvania State Police issued a warning Monday, saying there has been an increase in fraud reports throughout the state from individuals required to register as sex offenders. Police say the sex offenders are being conned into wiring immediate payments through gift cards or money orders to maintain compliance with reporting requirements.
Ryan Tarkowski, state police spokesman, said there have been 20 such incidents reported since November. It’s “entirely possible” the scammers are getting the sex offenders’ names through the state’s Megan’s Law list or from public court records, he said.
Police said that the scam involves a registered sex offender receiving a telephone call from an individual claiming to be a law enforcement official. The caller tells the sex offender he or she is not in compliance with registration requirements, and sometimes claims to hold a warrant for their arrest.
The caller says the issue can be resolved if the sex offender obtains some form of cash card or arranges a money transfer.
“The Pennsylvania State Police does not solicit registered sex offenders for any type of monetary compensation to gain compliance with registration requirements,” Tarkowski said.
Any issues with compliance with registration requirements are only resolved by an offender appearing at an approved registration site or by personal contact with a law enforcement official, according to state police.
Tarkowski added the scam is similar to those committed on the elderly.
“Anytime anybody is asked for an immediate payment through a gift card, like an iTunes or Google Play card, or money order, it should immediately send up a red flag,” Tarkowski said.
Tarkowski noted the perpetrators can be difficult to locate. An electronic money transfer can be accomplished in minutes, and the funds are often unable to be recovered.
Police said any individual who believes he or she may have been the victim of similar fraudulent activity should attempt to verify the phone number of the incoming call, obtain as much information as possible about the caller, note the details of the instructions provided to resolve the issue and contact the local police department.
If a registered sex offender receives this type of call and has any question regarding compliance status, he or she should contact the state police, Megan’s Law Section, at 866-771-3170.
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, [email protected] or via Twitter .