The Better Business Bureau of Chicago & Northern Illinois warned Thursday that con artists are now posing as police officers, members of the Sheriff’s Office, and even FBI officers in order to collect debts the consumers do not owe. The alert seemed to focus on a specific scam collection agency.

“People can often be deceived by callers claiming to be from law enforcement agencies, so don’t fall for their tactics,” says Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Consumers need to be very skeptical of anyone asking them for money or personal information over the phone and the BBB recommends to not doing it.”

The alert said that people call consumers and spoof the caller ID to show a law enforcement office’s phone number. The con artist tells the consumer that he or she must pay a fine in order to avoid criminal charges or must immediately pay money owed by a loan. Like most types of fraud, con artists require payments to be made by a prepaid debit card or money order, not a credit card. This way, the consumer cannot later dispute the charge and recover their money.

Thursday’s alert was very similar to one issued last month by the same BBB office. That alert was notable because the group advised consumers to learn how to tell a real debt collection effort from one that is clearly a scam.

The BBB said that complaints about scam debt collectors grew 18 percent over the past 12 months. The complaints typically involve consumers claiming that someone is contacting them over a loan they never took out.

Instead of lumping the scam collection complaints together with complaints about legitimate collectors, the BBB urged consumers to learn how to identify a scammer vs. a real ARM company.