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Authorities warn of sophisticated scammers impersonating law enforcement

Posted at 6:48 PM, Aug 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-22 21:48:44-04

Authorities are sounding the alarm about yet another scam. Scammers are pretending to be law enforcement and are threatening arrest for past violations unless victims pay money.

Macomb County Sheriff public information officer Sergeant Renee Yax knows all too well what is going on.

“I would say the scams are becoming a more prominent report that we’re taking lately. And the scam artists are getting much more proficient in what they do,” said Sergeant Renee Yax, a Michigan sheriff's public information officer.

She says they have a number of tricks up their sleeve.

“We find that the scam artists are able to spoof our phone number. So therefore when the numbers comes up on the victim’s caller ID, it shows Macomb County Sheriff’s Office,” Yax said. “They’re good too. They’re doing their research before they’re calling these people. I mean most people don’t know that information is easily available online.”

Zach didn’t. And he was nearly a victim.

“I didn’t answer the call. And then they left me a voicemail. And there was a detailed message with callback numbers in the voicemail,” Zach explained.

He called back. The woman on the other end said she was with pretrial claims services. Then the threats came flying at him.

“They’re going to send police to my house, and I’m going to have a warrant for my arrest, and they’re going to garnish my wages. I mean, everything,” said Zach detailing the threats.

What did they want? Money, of course.

“They actually told me they wanted $1,100,” explained Zach.

He said he almost gave his credit card information over the phone. However, some details the woman on the other end gave didn’t add up. Still, she knew lots about him, like previous addresses. She even called his dad and stepmom.

“That information, however they obtained that information, is very unsettling,” said Zach.

Sergeant Yax said it is easy to find public information on people. She explained one group being targeted by the scammers are sex offenders.

“You can give an address and it will search a certain radius to show you where any registered sex offenders are,” said Yax, showing how the names then pop up on screen.

She explained the scammer can google those names for even more personal information.

Alan Castel, a Professor of psychology at UCLA, started studying how older people could fall for scams. However, he quickly realized anyone can be victimized.

“We all have our insecurities and that’s what makes us kind of prone to being targeted for scams and fraud,” said Castel.

He detailed the core of the scammers’ techniques.

“They really try and take advantage of your emotions. So really trying to put you in stressful situations, making you rush to make decisions,” Castel explained.

He said people who have had prior run-ins with the law are more not necessarily more at risk of being scammed.

“Just because you’ve had some prior criminal history or any history doesn’t make you any more or less susceptible. It’s just that this information is being used against you to try and target your money or your time,” said Castel.

He said the best thing people can do is speak up.

“You shouldn’t feel ashamed because other people are in the same boat. And in fact you might be helping them by telling them about this scam that’s out there. So you might actually be helping other people so they don’t fall for the same scam in the future,” said Castel.

That’s why Zach is sharing his story.

“It’s hard to trick me. You know I’m very perspicacious so it’s very hard. They almost got me. And if they almost got me, odds are they’ve gotten, who knows, maybe millions of people,” said Zach.

This story was originally published by WXYZ in Detroit, Michigan.