Beware of telephone scams

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department has received an alarming increase of complaints and crime reports relating to scams where victims were told they owed money for outstanding arrest warrants or debts owed to the IRS.

Law enforcement personnel NEVER act as collection agents for any government or private agency and will never threaten arrest in order to collect fees, fines or debt. In addition, federal law prohibits legitimate debt collectors from using intimidation, threats or harassment in an attempt to collect debt.

How the scam works: People posing as law enforcement personnel call would-be victims informing them that they or another family member are about to be arrested. The caller continues by stating that fees and fines levied by the courts or the IRS must be paid immediately to remove the imminent threat of arrest. Victims, who stay on the line, are instructed to purchase pre-paid debit cards loaded with enough funds to pay the debt. Once purchased, the caller will ask for the number printed on the back of the prepaid card. The number allows the caller to access all funds loaded onto the card from any location, local or distant. With no further contact, the caller and the victim’s money disappear.

Fearing possible arrest, innocent people become the unwitting victims of this and other similar scams. Scammers rely on victims to panic and make the payments quickly before challenging the debt or the requested method of payment.

If you receive a call and are threatened with arrest for payment of any type of debt, fee or fine, hang up and follow up. Call the agency the caller claims to represent to determine if fees are owed. Always use a published phone number when placing a follow-up call; never use a phone number provided by the caller. If you determine money is owed, work directly with the agency involved to make restitution. If you determine the caller’s claims are false, which is more likely the case, ignore all subsequent calls and report the caller to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.ftc.gov. If you become a victim of this or any other scam, report it to your local law enforcement agency.

For more information, call Aliso Viejo Police Services at 425-2560 or email publicsafety@cityofalisoviejo.com.

Posted in 2015, eNews, Top-Stories.