As law enforcement agencies and the public become savvy to a specific form of a scam, criminals are finding different ways to manipulate victims out of their hard-earned money.
A current scam affecting a handful of Northwest residents each week makes people think they are talking to someone who is there to protect them - the police.
Sgt. Dean Nesbitt, with the Oro Valley Police Department, said criminals have gone to the point of researching a victim’s police department’s website to use actual department names, which adds another level of validity to the scam.
“Law enforcement is not going to call you over the phone and ask you for money,” Nesbitt said.
Some of the most recent incidents where the caller poses as a police officer are where they ask the victim for
their name to confirm that is whom they are talking to. They then tell the victim that they have an unpaid red-light camera ticket or they missed jury duty and there is a warrant out for their arrest. They can also threaten the victim with turning off their utilities or having some of their property repossessed.
The criminals offer the unsuspecting resident a resolution. They tell the victim they can resolve the issue by putting several hundred dollars onto a rechargeable credit card. That card information is then mailed or read over the phone and the money is gone.
“We would just rather have somebody call us than actually have them become a victim,” Nesbitt said. “We’ll be able to tell them right up front whether of not is seems legitimate. We call back and when we say we are a police officer, they hang up the phone on us, or they start cussing at us in another language and then they hang up on us.”
There are some subtle clues that can raise some suspicion such as bad use of grammar, mispronouncing of or just of incorrect words, or incorrect sentence structure.
These clues are something that appears to be a consistent trend in all scams over the phone, which includes where a person claims to be their grandson in a Mexican jail and needs money for bail.
“If there is any suspicion whatsoever, don’t hesitate to call the police,” Nesbitt said.
Oro Valley police recently released some red flag warnings that include the caller asking you not to talk to anyone about what they are asking you about, or to send money over the phone.
“If you get a phone call that just doesn’t sound right, do not send anybody any money or give anybody any of your information,” Nesbitt said. “If law enforcement is calling you, we already have a good idea of who you are.”