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Phone scams hitting the Central Coast - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Phone scams hitting the Central Coast

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You may have had this happen to you. You get a phone call, and the person on the other line says you need to take care of an urgent matter. 

Problem is, they need your money to make the problem go away. 

Every week, KSBY receives emails or phone calls about scams from our viewers. The scammers prey on emotions. They claim to be the IRS, microsoft engineers, even your grandchildren. 

They will say anything to get your money. 

It happened to Ethan Momburg from San Luis Obispo. His girlfriend took a call at work from someone claiming to be from the U.S. Treasury Department. The caller said, she was going to jail unless she paid up. "$9889.65 which was a really weird, number," said Ethan, 

"Right away it just threw up all kinds of alarms." 

He said his girlfriend hadn't filed her taxes yet. So Ethan called the number. It had a 510 area code. 

"There was a language difference, a very big language difference," said Ethan. 

After giving him an odd address in Santa Rosa and the run around with the names of people he was talking with, the caller told him, he needed to pay up, or he too, would go to jail. 

"You're telling me you're threatening me that you're going to pick me up if I don't pay over the phone with a credit card? That's really really odd. That's really really odd," said Ethan. 

He knew it was a scam, but kept them talking. 

"Lets try to find out where they're located. Let's try to find out what I can do so this doesn't happen to anyone else," said Ethan. 

"The IRS scam is the most popular one we're seeing floating around the county," said Brandy Swain, Crime Prevention Specialist with the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office. She said they can get up to 8-10 calls about this scam, every day, some potential victims even report someone saying they were from sheriff's office was going to lock them up. 

"Reinforcing that fact that there was an arrest warrant for that person, again that call was a scam as well," said Swain. 

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the IRS scam is happening in record numbers. Last year, they had 50,000 more complaints. 

"There's such an increase in these scam calls because obviously someone's falling victim to it. They're making a lot of money on it, " said Swain. 

She said other scams hitting the county include the grandparent scam. Callers claiming to be the victim's grandchildren have been arrested or are in a foreign country and need money wired to them immediately. 

Another popular scam in the county is the lottery scam. Callers claim the victim won a prize and they need to pay taxes on the prize. 

Many people on the Central Coast are also reporting the jury duty scam. Callers claim the victim missed jury duty and there is a warrant out for their arrest, but they can clear the warrant with a debit card. The San Luis Obispo Sheriff's Office reports two victims just lost about $1600 dollars, each. 

And finally the Microsoft scam. A so-called computer engineer calls and asks for access to your computer to fix an issue, ultimately gaining access to your personal information. 

Experts said some scammers have done their research on social media and are specific with who they target. 

"Usually our seniors about 70-percent of the time they're targeting our seniors," said Swain. 

As for Ethan, he never gave any money to the scammers... but he knows, others will. 

"We all work hard for our money, we all want to pay rent. We all want to do right and I didn't want this to go by the wayside," said Ethan. 

The FTC said if you get a call, don't give the caller any information, legitimate businesses will not contact you by phone. Experts suggest writing down the number and any other identifying information... then hang up. You're encouraged to file a complaint with the FTC and contact your local law enforcement agency. 

And, let your friends and family know. Awareness that these scams are happening in the area is key to it not happening to you.

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