Some 133 families have contacted the board reporting that they have received communication from the scammers this year, according to Steve Hayes, the board’s director of communication. So far 59 families have reported that they fell victim to the scam, Hayes said. The most recent scam report came in just a few days ago.
“Some of the public contacts told us that they paid funds before they realized it wasn’t legit/that it was fraudulent,” Hayes said in an email statement.
The scam involves soliciting the families of inmates via written communication or phone. The scammers describe a fake early-release program called “Intent Supervised Parole Reinstatement Program.”
For $970 the scammers promise an inmate can get out early and have electronic monitoring. They say the money will go towards an ankle monitor and families can send the funds via a mobile payment app, money order or a Green Dot MoneyPak prepaid debit card.
The scammers can be very convincing because in some cases they have specific information about the inmate’s sentencing date and other specifics, according to the board’s alert. It’s not clear how the fraudsters are identifying families of the inmates.
Hayes said, like many scams, this one brings a sense of urgency to the victims, with the scammers telling the families they need to act quickly.
“The perpetrators of this scam prey on the loved ones of offenders who are incarcerated and the victims may pay money because they are led to believe the release won’t occur unless money is paid,” Hayes said.
Hayes said the parole board elicited the help of Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s office to investigate the scam in February.
In August, the AG’s office issued a consumer affairs press release alerting the public that multiple law enforcement and criminal justice agencies were subjects of scams similar to the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles scam.
The release noted that there are several ways to spot a scam. For one, law enforcement agencies won’t solicit payments over the phone, and will never ask for payments for clemency considerations. And no government agency or law enforcement office will ask for payments to be made with gift cards, Green Dot MoneyPaks, or mobile payment apps.
Kara Richardson, a spokeswoman with Carr’s office, said the investigation into the parole scam is active and ongoing. She said the office has shared several alerts with consumers regarding this and other types of law enforcement imposter scams.
“It’s important that Georgians stay informed of the latest scams and proceed with caution when receiving calls or messages requesting payment or sensitive information,” Carr said in a statement.
The parole board said if a family suspects they’ve been contacted by the scammers attempting the fraud they should report it to local law enforcement. The board also asks that it be notified at GaParoleBoard@pap.ga.gov.
A handful of those who have reported the scam to state officials were family members of federal inmates and parole officials directed them to report the scam to federal authorities as well as local law enforcement.