Area law enforcement agencies are continuing to report an increase in telephone and mail scams, some of them purporting to originate with the agencies.
The Stanislaus County Sheriffs Department sent out an advisory warning of a scam in which callers identify themselves as deputies with the department, even giving the correct address of the headquarters on Hackett Road.
According to authorities, someone called the targeted person claiming to be with the Social Security Administration and saying a family member had committed fraud and a fine of $1,500 was needed to avoid arrest. The call sounded suspicious, so the resident hung up, but the person called back, claiming to be with the Sheriffs Department and threatening to arrest the family member at his or her place of employment. The phone number, based in Seattle, was traced to several online postings about fraud.
Authorities said deputies are not working with the Social Security Administration on fraud-related cases.
Its not just the Sheriffs Department. Turlock police spokeswoman Mayra Lewis said her department has received several reports of similar scams. On one recent day, three reports came in. One was a mail scam in which the targeted individual was promised a share in a large inheritance. Another came from San Diego, where a police dispatcher reported getting a phone call from her former husband, who had been called by someone reporting that their son had been arrested in Florida and needed bail.
Modesto police for several weeks have been getting reports of an IRS telephone scam. A person posing as an IRS agent calls victims saying they owe money to the IRS. The agent demands the money be paid promptly by a prepaid debit card. If the victim refuses, the agent threatens to call the police to have the victim arrested.
Authorities say anyone contacted by someone identifying him- or herself as a member of law enforcement should ask for a full name, title or rank, and department ID or badge number. Residents also can call back using a published public telephone number to verify any call from someone purporting to be with law enforcement.
Anyone receiving a telephone call, text message, email or other electronic communication asking for personal information of any kind, banking, credit card information, etc., should immediately be suspicious, the Sheriffs Department said in a news release. Never give personal information of any kind to anyone you dont know. Never respond to any electronic communication asking for personal information or banking information. Delete the text message or email message.
These criminals, who are hard to track because the calls often originate outside the United States, prey on the eagerness of people to help family members. But people are learning that this isnt how legitimate law enforcement agencies do business.
There has been an increase in these kinds of calls, Lewis said. But people are getting smarter; thats the good part.