Mental health professionals are being targeted by a failure to appear scam. The first scam we’ve seen targeting expert witnesses.

This is the first blog post I’ve written that falls directly into the “public service announcement” category. Yesterday morning, I saw an article by the Washington Post where the author describes a telephone-based scam, where perpetrators pretend to be police officers.

The story grabbed my attention because the suspects have a little deeper knowledge about prospective victims. They know enough to know you are likely to act as an expert witness.

The caller, impersonating a police officer, claims the victim failed to appear at a court hearing in which they were subpoenaed to testify as an expert witness. The criminal claims to be an officer and provides the real name of an an officer employed at the local law enforcement agency, which can be confirmed online. The victim is told they have a civil option to pay a fine and avoid jail time.

As recounted in the Washington Post article, “The problem, the alleged detective stressed, was that because of the coronavirus, people couldn’t come into police headquarters to settle such matters. He said she needed to purchase “MoneyPak” electronic cash transfer cards — at one point transferring the call to his purported supervisor, who also had assumed the name of a real Montgomery officer.”

You need to start asking questions at this time! Have them send you some documentation in the mail. Have them personally serve you the paperwork. Do not get frightened by someone claiming to be an authority figure over the phone. That’s their goal! Get you nervous and acting irrationally.

The option to pay a fine should immediately get your attention. Not to mention this silliness of paying with “electronic cash transfer cards.” There is no reason you shouldn’t be able to pay a fine with a check or credit card.

If you are accused of missing are accused of missing a court hearing. You should know that police officers, detectives, investigators, are not usually those responsible for collecting fines. Generally that’s a different department.

Scam Has Been Taking Place for a While:

Although this fake police officer scam targeting mental health professionals, took place in Maryland. However, in preparing to write this post, I did a little research and found that the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) had also warned about this type of a scam back in 2019. Here is their press release on the subject. The LAPD specifically mentioned therapists and psychologists as more likely to be targeted:

“It should be noted that many of the victims are current/former employees in the mental health industry. In each of these incidents, the caller claimed that the victim missed an appearance as an expert witness in a court case. Therapists and psychologists should particularly beware of the scam. You can get help determining the authenticity of a call by contacting your local police station.”

Posted by nickrishwain


  1. JERRY P PURSWELL November 20, 2020 at 1:27 pm

    I’ve “been served” with a subpoena to appear at a deposition a few times (when opposing counsel was just being unpleasant & disagreeable). While all the points made in this article are valid, if one has not been handed a piece of paper in person by a process server, one has NOT been served – and one is NOT subject to any civil or criminal penalties.


    1. That is correct, Jerry. You’ve got to be put on notice. Seems the examples given were more about pushing someone to respond with something “fear inducing.”


  2. Thank you. This just happened to me in Tucson Arizona. I Googled it as soon as I hung up and saw your post. I am a dentist. I believed him up until he said I would have to stay on the line, (and under penalty, not call or text anyone before the call was complete), and I was to drive somewhere in person to meet him. I didn’t stay on the line long enough to get the details.


    1. Sorry to hear this happened to you, Jennifer. Glad you found our post!


  3. My wife just received one as a nurse practitioner in Salt Lake City area. They wanted us to drive to meet them. I got on the line also and starting asking questions and they starting saying “oh, looks like we have a third party”. And then they started getting a little flustered and combative. I asked for the name of the judge and they said that they would send police over to arrest her. I called the number back, which DID lead to the police department in that area, but they said it was a scam. Not sure how they got that number to show up on the caller ID, but they did. Don’t fall for it. Whenever people start eliciting fear in me on a call, I immediately get suspicious. Real places don’t threaten like that.


    1. Real places will not threaten. And they will not call you to tell you they’re sending the police.


  4. Still going on in Northwest Indiana. When I told him I was going to call the sheriffs office directly, he started cursing me out.


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