COTTONWOOD — Scammers try many techniques to trick potential victims out of their personal and financial information, such as posing as representing a governmental agency.
But those tricks can come to a halt if they unknowingly try to scam a law enforcement officer … such as recently with Cottonwood Police Chief Terry Cochran.
Earlier this month, Cochran followed up on a citizen’s complaint of a possible phone scam, calling the number provided and getting someone with a Middle Eastern accident identifying himself as “Billy Johnson.” The person said he was with an IRS criminal investigation and was seeking his account information and phone number.
“I refused, then identified myself as law enforcement and told him that he and I both knew it was a scam,” Cochran said. “Surprisingly, this individual was honest, somewhat. He stated that ‘Yes, it is a scam what I’m doing.’”
The individual then told Cochran he needed money and it was the only job he could find. The scammer stated he used a “Magic Jack” to appear on the caller I.D. that he was calling from Seattle, when actually he was phoning from New York. He then asked Cochran if he had relatives who could give him a job, “because he couldn’t find any to replace the phone scam job.”
This is not an isolated incident as area law enforcement has received a few reports of individuals hit up on a similar IRS call scam.
“In short, if you get a call from the IRS stating you will be getting a warrant issued if you don’t pay them, it is a scam, “Cochran said. “Don’t send money to them, and I wouldn’t call them from your home number. Refer it to law enforcement and let them deal with it.”
Impersonating government agency officials threatening court action, fines or imprisonment is not uncommon for scammers looking for techniques to scare or coerce victims into turning over information and/or sending money. This month, Idaho State Police warned the public of a phone scam with persons impersonating ISP officials who inform potential victims they have an outstanding warrant and the need to pay money to clear it or face arrest. ISP stated the agency does not call citizens for either reason.
Law enforcement advises caution: Don’t provide personal information (Social Security, bank/credit card numbers, etc.) over the phone to callers; and if there is a question, hang up and find the number in the phone book to the agency/entity in question and inquire yourself. Scam calls should also be reported to local law enforcement.