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How can I verify if a seizure notice is legitimate?


How to Verify if a Seizure Notice is Legitimate

Getting a seizure notice can be scary. You open your mailbox and see an official-looking letter saying your property, bank account or other assets have been seized. But is the seizure notice real? Unfortunately, scammers sometimes send fake seizure notices to try and trick people. So it’s important to verify if a seizure notice is real, before you hand over money or assets. This article explains how to check if a seizure notice is legitimate.

What is a Seizure Notice?

A seizure notice, also called a forfeiture notice or confiscation order, is a legal document from a government agency or law enforcement. It states they are taking ownership of your property or assets. This usually happens if they suspect the property was used for illegal activity or purchased with money from crimes. Seizure can happen in criminal cases like drug trafficking. It also happens in civil forfeiture cases if police suspect a link to crime.

Seizure notices come from agencies like the FBI, DEA, ATF, IRS or local police. They are serious legal documents that give instructions for contesting the seizure and getting your property back. Ignoring a real seizure notice can result in you losing your property permanently.

Why Verify Seizure Notices?

While most seizure notices are real, scammers try to fake them too. A fake notice looks real on the surface. But it’s actually just a trick to steal your money or assets. Here are some reasons verifying legitimacy is important:

  • Scammers use fake notices to get money or sensitive info from victims
  • Fake notices threaten asset seizure if you don’t pay fines or fees
  • Notices with errors or from unusual agencies are red flags of scams
  • You could lose money or property responding to a fake notice
  • Verifying protects you and ensures you respond appropriately

How to Verify a Seizure Notice

Here are some steps to take to verify if a seizure notice is real:

1. Review Details Carefully

Read through the notice carefully, more than once. Make sure to check:

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  • Which agency it is from
  • Reason given for asset seizure
  • Instructions for contesting the seizure
  • Contact info for agency – name, phone number, address
  • IDs and badge numbers of any officials named
  • Official seals and watermarks
  • Grammar, spelling, typos

Look for errors, things that don’t make sense, or details that don’t match up. This can reveal a fake.

2. Verify the Agency is Real

Double check the agency or department name on the notice is legitimate. Scammers often invent names of fake agencies. Google the agency name and make sure it’s real. Check their official website for contact info and details that match the notice. Beware notices from agencies that don’t handle seizures like the “Bureau of Asset Removal”. These are almost always scams.

3. Call the Agency Directly

Find the agency’s main phone number on their official website – not any number on the notice itself. Call and ask to verify the notice number and details. A real agency will be able to confirm specifics about notices they sent out. Scammers won’t have any record of the notice number.

4. Compare Signatures

Notices have signatures from agency officials and lawyers. Compare signatures against other legal docs from the same agency or official. Signatures on legitimate notices should match those on other docs. Differences in signatures can indicate a scam.

5. Consult a Lawyer

Contact a lawyer who specializes in asset forfeiture defense. They can review the notice and help determine if it’s legitimate. They’ll also advise if you need to take legal action to contest the seizure. Having an expert review protects you from scams.

Red Flags of a Fake Seizure Notice

Here are some common red flags that indicate a seizure notice is likely a scam:

  • Misspellings, grammar errors, typos
  • Threats of immediate arrest if you don’t pay fines
  • Requests sensitive info like SSN, bank account numbers
  • Notification of seizure for unusual/minor reasons
  • Instructions to pay fines directly to an individual
  • Contact numbers that go to voicemail boxes or personal cell phones
  • Notice comes from email instead of mail
  • Agency name doesn’t match official websites
  • Official seals look altered or blurry

Notices with any of these details are most likely fake. Cease contact and consider reporting the scam attempt. Don’t provide personal info or pay any requested fines.

What to Do With a Fake Notice

If you verify a seizure notice is fake, here’s what to do:

  • Cease contact – Don’t respond to any calls/emails from the scammers.
  • Report it – File a complaint with the FTC and your state attorney general.
  • Warn others – Alert friends/family about new asset seizure scams going around.
  • Monitor accounts – Watch for suspicious charges if you did provide any personal info.

Fake notices are on the rise as scammers get more sophisticated. But carefully verifying legitimacy using the steps here can protect you. Be proactive, and don’t panic if you do get a seizure notice. Just methodically validate it before responding.


Federal Trade Commission. “How to Spot, Avoid and Report Fake Debt Collectors.” https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-spot-avoid-and-report-fake-debt-collectors

Internal Revenue Service. “IRS, States Warn About Fake Seizure Scam Using Real Names and Numbers.” https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-states-warn-about-fake-seizure-scam-using-real-names-and-numbers

Walters, Edgar. “Bogus seizure notices mailed to NC residents.” Carolina Journal. https://www.carolinajournal.com/news-article/bogus-seizure-notices-mailed-to-nc-residents/

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