Scam callers impersonating sheriff, stealing money

Updated at 11 a.m. on July 28, 2017

The Brillion News

If you are counting on your Caller ID feature to tell whether a phone call is really from a government agency, forget it. Scammers are using software that lets them impersonate the phone number of a police agency or another government office.

On July 26, the Outagamie County Sheriff’s Department said a person is calling around claiming to be with the sheriff’s department. The caller identified himself as Bruce Calhoun and was able to use a spoofing tool to make the caller ID show the sheriff’s department’s non-emergency number, 920-832-5605.

The caller was demanding money.

“We will not call you by phone to demand a payment,” said a spokesman for the OCSD. “Never take a payment over the phone. If you receive a call like this hang up on the person.”

The same scam showed up in Milwaukee County, where Sheriff David Clarke issued a warning.

Clarke is alerting the public that an unknown suspect continues to call Milwaukee County residents, identifying himself as a sheriff’s deputy.

The scammer advises the victims that they have an outstanding warrant, owe back taxes, or have missed jury duty and must pay a fine or face arrest.

Two people contacted the sheriff’s office this week after falling victim to the scam.

In the first case, the caller told the victim to avoid immediate arrest, she had to buy Green Dot prepaid credit cards. He kept her on the phone while she went to the store, purchased the cards, and then read him the codes on the cards. Once they have the codes, the scammers immediately transfer the funds from the cards to another card. She lost $1,400. He then instructed her to bring the cards to the Sheriff’s Office and ask for a particular deputy. There she learned she did not have any warrants or fines.

Another victim was told he owed $8,000 in back taxes to the IRS, to be paid with a computer store’s gift cards. He also fell victim to this scam.

Clarke said the sheriff’s office does not call citizens regarding jury duty, or call to threaten arrest for failure to pay fines. Gift cards or prepaid credit cards would never be an acceptable form of payment to satisfy outstanding fines.

On Monday, July 24, the state Bureau of Consumer Protection reported that its phone number was being spoofed as well.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) received a number of reports from consumers reporting they received a call from the Consumer Protection Hotline and the DATCP 800 number appeared on their caller ID.

The Bureau of Consumer Protection does not make phone calls to consumers using the 800 number.

“If we do call a consumer, the number that appears on a caller ID is our local phone number with a 608 area code,” a DATCP spokesman said. “We will not call you ‘out of the blue’ or randomly. We will only call consumers if you left a message for a return call or if you filed a complaint with us. We also identify ourselves and tell you why we are calling.”

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