Phone scammers impersonate law enforcement

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) – Bonneville County Sheriff deputies have seen a wide variety of scams and fraudulent activity on social media, emails, texts and cell phone calls lately.

One of the most common cell phone scams they see are suspects pretending to be law enforcement or an officer of the courts trying to convince the victims they missed a court hearing, jury duty or have warrants for their judgment. Some suspects are using technology that shows the actual phone number of local law enforcement on your caller ID, utilizing a fake voice mail system to route return calls to various divisions of your local police agency, and using similar names of actual local lawenforcement to seem authentic .

Ultimately, the goal is to convince the victims they are facing judgment or jail time for a variety of reasons, until they get to a point where it can be taken care of over the phone by paying money. The method can be anything from asking for debit or credit card numbers, to having victims go to area retail stores to get gift cards or money cards and providing the numbers over the phone. Most times the victims are told the card numbers given did not work and they need to get a different one or try again, which results in even more money being taken by the suspects at the expense of the victim.

While deputies and local law enforcement often call people by phone to talk about pending issues or cases, there is never a time when money is needed over the phone to take care of an issue. This is especially the case with outstanding warrants that require some form of direct contact with the courts to resolve.

Here are a few things to think about if you receive a suspicious call from a government officer or entity that you are unsure about:

  1. Deputies, police officers and court personnel will never call you and ask you for money over the phone to resolve warrants, jury or court issues, especially if it involves the purchase of a gift card, money card, etc. at a business or over the internet and especially if it is to avoid being arrested.
  2. If you have not been tied to any court cases, business or issues recently and have not received official notice by mail or service of court paperwork by a deputy or process server, it’s worth looking up the number for your local county courts or law enforcement dispatch to verify if an officer is trying to contact you for official business.
  3. Some suspects have the ability to mask their real location and phone number to appear as if they are calling from official dispatch or law enforcement number, and at times even use actual names of local law enforcement. If you were not expecting a call from law enforcement, ask questions and take steps to verify who is actually calling.

If it’s possible you are the subject of unresolved issues in the courts that result in a warrant for your judgment, it would be your responsibility to contact the courts to resolve the issue or turn yourself in to law enforcement. Again, law enforcement will never offer or attempt to resolve unpaid fines or active judgment warrants by taking payment over the phone, but they may contact you to ask that you turn yourself in.

This is just one type of scam deputies have seen time and time again, and unfortunately, people fall victim to it. These and other scams tend to evolve with technology and different avenues of approach that continue to cost victims of thousands of dollars. Be suspicious of unsolicited calls, emails, social media and text messages, especially those with unknown internet links. Take a moment to think about what is being asked and why before you provide personal information. The sheriff’s office recommends periodic changes to passwords and monitoring of your personal accounts for suspicious activity as well, setting up 2-step verifications, and alerts that notify you of suspicious activity. Doing these things can better protect yourself from being a victim.

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