Phone scams threatening arrest are on the upsurge
Garfield County residents have been the target of several different phone scams of late, prompting authorities to issue some advice on how to deal with possible crooks.
“Today’s scammers are using spoofed callback numbers to lead you to believe you are contacting the sheriff’s office or some other legitimate law enforcement office or entity such as the IRS when you return the call,” according to a news release from the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office.
In many cases, they have done their research on the official agencies by checking websites and gathering legitimate names of deputies, police officers and commanders, the Sheriff’s Office said.
One Glenwood Springs resident told the Post Independent Tuesday that he was the target of one such scam, which had him wondering whether he was truly about to be arrested for something.
The man, who did not want his name used because the perpetrators had already obtained personal information, said he received a phone message Monday from a purported sheriff’s deputy claiming a warrant was out for his arrest for failure to appear in court.
He said he was advised to call the Sheriff’s Office and that he needed to be ready to pay a fee. The man said he placed a call to the Sheriff’s Office and left a message, and that about 5 minutes later he got a call back from a person he now knows was a scammer.
“I think that must have been pure coincidence that he called back,” he said. “It was a little bit intimidating, for sure.”
Unsure whether it was legitimate or not, he said he listened as the man on the other end of the line gave instructions for him to purchase a prepaid card in the amount of $972.18 and to bring it with him to the Sheriff’s Office.
At the same time, he said he had his wife call the Glenwood Springs Police Department. A real police officer showed up at the door while the caller was still on the phone and spoke briefly with the perpetrator, who then hung up.
“I didn’t give them any money or information,” the victim said. “But I can see how other people can get taken by it.”
That was the proper response, according to the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, which advised to never give out credit card numbers or account information to a suspected scammer.
“There are several things scammers have in common,” the release said. “The average citizen needs to know and be aware of these practices so they don’t become the next ‘mark.’”
Most scams are done over the phone, and will usually follow the same pattern, according to the Sheriff’s Office:
• They will try to insist that the victim owes money for something, such as late taxes, overdue car payment, loan, etc.
• They will offer a way to solve the problem quickly by paying through a credit card, debit card or purchasing one of the various cash cards that are readily available at convenience stores and other establishments.
• They will express a sense of urgency to act immediately through threats of arrest or penalties and additional cost, often working on weekends or holidays when it is difficult to verify their claims.
• They may know the victim’s name or the name of a close relative or someone else in the house, often obtained via social media or other internet-based information.
• They might provide one or two callback numbers that answer with legitimate-sounding recordings or actual people when the call is returned.
“The real key is to stay calm, call your local law enforcement officers and verify the legitimacy of the call you received,” the Sheriff’s Office advises.
It’s also important to remember that legitimate businesses and government agencies want to work with people to resolve any actual debts, but rarely is there a threat of arrest.
“If there is a legitimate warrant out for your arrest you will be contacted personally, generally by a uniformed officer, and not over the phone,” the Sheriff’s Office release concluded.