False Pretense

According to the IC3, Washington DC ranked # 1 in total number of perpetrators per 100,000 people. Are you protected?

What is false pretense?

False pretense is defined as taking or obtaining property, money, or signature of another through the use of tricks, lies, or deception.

  • Example:
    • You are approached in a parking lot by a person who tells you that they have a winning lottery ticket but can’t cash it. They offer to sell you the ticket, and after the fact you learn the ticket is not real.
    • Most scams and cons all involve false pretense. Read further.

What is necessary to establish false pretense under Virginia State Code?

Under Virginia criminal code 18.2-178, the following elements must be established.

  • There must be an intent to defraud;
  • There must be an actual fraud;
  • Some form of false pretense, false representation, trick, or deception must be used to facilitate the fraud; and
  • The false pretense, false representation, trick, or deception must be in part the reason that the fraud was successful.

What is not false pretense?

Being overcharged for work is not false pretense.

Who can investigate false pretense?

The Fairfax County Police Department can investigate the crime if it occurs within the jurisdictional boundaries of Fairfax County. If the crime occurred outside of Fairfax County, you should contact that jurisdiction.

What should I do if I am the victim of false pretense?

  • File a police report with the correct jurisdiction.
  • Contact the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies and place a Fraud Alert on your credit report. Once you place a fraud alert, creditors are required to verify the identity of a person claiming to be you, before extending credit to them.
    Equifax Experian Transunion

    Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
    P.O. Box 740241,
    Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

    Experian: 1-888-397-3742
    P.O. Box 9532
    Allen, TX 75013

    TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
    P.O. Box 6790
    Fullerton, CA 92834
  • Close any accounts that you know have been compromised.
  • Call your financial institutions and speak with a fraud specialist. Make sure you document the details of your phone call, and obtain their contact information.
  • Follow up with your financial institutions in writing. Make sure you send all correspondence by certified mail.

How can I protect myself from being a victim of false pretense?

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
  • Look at our common scams section for the most up to date information.

Where can I find additional information and resources?

Code of Virginia – Applicable Laws related to false pretense.


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