Blake Dowling: Scams, spoofed calls and no, the FBI doesn’t call first

Portrait of Two police officers with serious faces looking at ca
The FBI doesn't take credit cards. When there is a crime, they just take you.

Regarding all sorts of scams, Florida gets it.

Hackers trying to poison our water supply; USB drives appearing on our doorsteps appearing to be from “Best Buy”; people knocking on the door with “free” COVID-19 tests; or repair companies that will gladly take a deposit during hurricane clean-up, then vanish.

What’s next? That is, besides the Russians ramping up attacks in conjunction with the war in Ukraine.

How about reports coming in throughout Tallahassee of fake “FBI calls” coming to their house?

Our region has a nasty black eye from a long undercover investigation by the bureau that ended (some say there’s more to come) with several people going to jail. Business owner JT Burnette, former Mayor Scott Maddox, and Paige Carter-Smith all began their sentences for their roles in a pay-to-play scheme that rocked our state.

After two years of headlines and stories on the nightly news, I’m sure they were top of mind when residents picked up the phone wondering why the caller ID says “FBI.”

First — you may be wondering how a criminal can make it look like their call is coming from the FBI? Spoofing phone numbers is very easy and (unfortunately for us) takes about five minutes.

The scam starts with a phone call showing on caller ID as from the FBI; next, you answer, and the fake agent identifies you by name and announces the “charges” against you.

The con says bank accounts will be frozen if compliance, payment, etc. is not made.

Combine that with stories of the long-running FBI investigation and alleged bank accounts frozen in Canada for citizens donating to the convoy protests, and people might be a little more gullible and a little more scared of Big Brother.

Canada is using the Emergencies Act (formerly called the War Measures Act) to freeze some accounts; it was previously used in WW I and II, as well as a crisis in 1970.

Sound extreme?

Protesters in Canada, it would seem, do not enjoy the freedoms we have here, but all that noise gets through and makes these scam calls work, in some cases.

A good rule of thumb is to ignore these calls (and ones like them): Hang up, call the local FBI field office, and ask them if you are a target of an investigation (that is if you are concerned you might be for some reason).

If you are indeed a serious person of interest, agents usually just show up at your door, and just like the IRS, Microsoft, Dell and ATF, the chance these massive entities will call you out of the blue is effectively zero.

In fact, in the strange chance you really are under investigation, you’ll probably have a hard time calling them and actually reaching someone. (Not the FBI, by the way, they have a tip line and other resources where you can get someone in an emergency; others don’t get off the hook.)

If you see a scam like this, report it to the Federal Trade Commission or local police; we all have to work together to stop this kind of con. The FBI has a lot of history in North Florida, not just the Burnette case, but also the undercover FBI agent who got cuffed and stuffed in Carrabelle for looking into a recent situation there. That case is a good reminder to drive really slow through that part of the state.

Or the FBI agent arrested in our region last year for some heinous crimes against children (as reported by our friends at WCTV). Law enforcement faces a battle on 50 fronts; these instances are not a knock against them. It is what it is.

So, when you get a call from the FBI, hang up. And whatever you do, don’t give them money as the FBI does not accept credit cards to make a crime go away.

When there is a crime, they just take you.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and author of the book “Professionally Distanced.” He also hosts the Biz & Tech podcast and writes for several organizations. Blake can be reached at [email protected].

Blake Dowling

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at [email protected] or at


  • Cherry Wood

    March 12, 2022 at 5:39 am

    Phone scams are pretty common today, but the last few months my neighbors and I have been getting scams by text messaging, and they are pretty deceptive: AT&T, Fed-ex, Amazon, and many other major corporations whom many if use often. When’s it going to stop?? We live in Florida!!

    • Blake Hood Dowling

      March 14, 2022 at 12:55 pm

      You are certainly right, scams are coming in via, text, phone and email and even US Mail and private carriers. Make sure to block those numbers that are texting you as a first step.

      Blake Dowling

Comments are closed.


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