Scammers target locals, police say

Written by Jessica Cejnar, The Triplicate February 27, 2014 10:07 am

After two local businesses recently fell prey to a scam targeting local utility customers, the Crescent City Police Department is warning residents of new ways impostors are trying to steal their money and personal information.

Police Sgt. Erik Apperson said he received reports Wednesday involving two different scams. 

In the first case, a caller told the victim he represented local law enforcement, naming either the Del Norte Sheriff’s Office or the Crescent City Police Department, and was gathering donations for a fundraiser. 

The caller asked for a donation of $150 or $200 and requested the victim’s credit card and bank information, Apperson said. But the would-be victim, whose family member is with the Police Department, saw through the scam, he said.

“He was smart enough to quiz the caller about staffing at the Police Department. He failed miserably,” Apperson said. “As local law enforcement, we don’t operate like that. We do not cold-call you and ask for credit card numbers over the phone.”

In the second case, a caller claimed to represent the Drug Enforcement Administration and told the would-be victim he was a suspect in a prescription fraud case and federal agents were on their way to arrest him, Apperson said. The caller said not to surrender to local law enforcement or contact an attorney, but to provide credit card and bank information and “we’ll make this go away.”

Last week, two businesses fell prey to scammers who claimed to represent Pacific Power and demanded payment for overdue bills or a special deposit for a new meter installation. 

Another scam that has affected people in Humboldt County involves the caller telling the victim that he or she has been selected for jury duty and asks for the victim’s social security or credit card number, Apperson said.

In the two reports he received Wednesday, Apperson said the callers didn’t have accents and could name local landmarks and local agencies. In the case of the telephone scam involving Pacific Power, the scammer was able to state a dollar figure comparable with the amount actually owed to the utility, he said.

“We’re dealing with educated people who decided to be criminals,” Apperson said. “When we put up a better defense they put up a better offense.”

People should never give out personal information or conduct monetary transactions when they receive an unsolicited phone call, Apperson said. He recommends getting a phone number that can be used to call the person back and a physical address from the scammer and then alerting the local authorities.

Residents should also let their neighbors, friends and families know if there’s a scam floating around, Apperson said.

“Put it on Facebook just to get the word out,” he said. “Legitimate businesses do not cold-call you and ask for credit card numbers over the phone. Law enforcement certainly doesn’t.”

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