It’s beginning to look a lot like the time of year that people are swindled out of money.
And apparently a group of fraudsters are using the name of local law enforcement groups in order to do it.
According to a release posted by the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department, people have been receiving phone calls claiming to be from the law enforcement agency and declaring that unless they pay a set amount of money to clear an outstanding warrant, they’ll be promptly arrested.
The release didn’t say if any of those who were contacted actually handed over money, but simply reinforced the idea that the department doesn’t actually contact people with outstanding warrants, demanding that they pay a set amount of money to make them go away.
It isn’t the first time that telephone swindlers have used law enforcement to try and get money out of people under the threat of arrest.
Last year a number of local residents reported receiving phone calls from the Internal Revenue Service – some of them originating from a Washington, D.C. phone number and coming up on Caller ID screens as I.R.S. – demanding that they send payment for outstanding taxes or else face arrest by the local sheriff’s department.
The scam was so widespread, in fact, that the real IRS dedicated a section of its website outlining how to determine if the call being received is in fact a scam, and what to do to report it – informing those that may have been targeted that those being pursued for outstanding taxes are contacted in person by an agent and not over the phone.
Here are a few tips suggested by law enforcement to make sure that you don’t become a victim during the holidays:
uAnybody threatening arrest for not sending in a cashier’s check or a prepaid debit card is almost certainly a scammer. Report these practices immediately to local law enforcement and any Federal agencies that they claim to be representing.
uUse common sense. If something seems too good to be true, it more than likely is. If you think that you’re being targeted as part of a scam, get as much identifying information as possible from the person who contacted you – name, organization, location, place the call is originating from – so that it can be turned over to authorities.
uNever send money to organizations that you aren’t completely sure are real. While people do tend to be more giving around the holidays, check to make sure that the people that may contact you are working on behalf of the organizations they claim to be serving.
And the phone call scams aren’t the only instance of somebody purporting to be a law enforcement official for personal gain that happened in the arrest this week.
The Manteca Police Department is currently investigating an incident in October where a male suspect impersonated at San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Deputy at Home Depot in order to walk away with power tools that he didn’t pay for after threatening the use of pepper spray. The man, described as a Hispanic male in his 30s, unshaven, with a goatee, was caught on surveillance cameras wearing a green Sherriff’s baseball cap, tan pants, boots and what appeared to be a bulletproof vest. He did not have a badge or a gun.
The Manteca Police Department is asking anybody with information about the identity of that man to contact Detective Aaron Montoya at 209.456.8230.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.