1-800-It's-A-Scam: Don't fall for these calls
Earlier this summer, West Linn Police Officer Jeff Halverson received a curious voicemail on his work phone line.
The caller identified himself as a representative from "special services" and said that Halverson was now a "burden on his country" after committing a crime in his "city or state." Though he knew it was a scam, Halverson decided to call the person back.
"He couldn't tell me what my crime was," Halverson said. "And I kind of played along, and when I told him I was a police officer and that this was my work phone, he hung up pretty quick."
But not everyone is as seasoned as Halverson when it comes to these increasingly common phone calls, which almost always request some form of payment. Just last week, resident Sheri Daniels arrived home to find a troubling voicemail on her landline.
"It said, 'We need to talk to you about your tax filings. You have 24 hours before this expires and legal action will be taken against you, and you will immediately be taken into custody,'" Daniels said. "We didn't believe it. We just kind of said, 'That's definitely a scam.' But it was scary to hear it, and I feel bad for elderly people — it would scare them, I think.
"They would call back and be a fish on the line on that one."
Indeed, Halverson pointed out that it takes only a few successful calls to make the exercise worthwhile for scammers, which has kept them viable in the three years he's spent with the department.
"If you call 10,000 people on an automated machine and one of them falls for it and sends you $1,000 in iTunes gift cards, that's a pretty good day's worth of crime," Halverson said.
"They work in particular parts of the country and it comes in waves. ... It's something that's here to stay, and it's unfortunate."
Modern technology has made it easier for scammers to trick people, according to Halverson. Caller ID can be manipulated to show up with a police department's name, and scammers even go as far as looking up names of officers at local departments to make their claim more believable.
"So they might identify themselves as Officer Jeff Halverson with the WLPD," Halverson said. "The big thing people need to remember is we will never call you and tell you that you have a warrant and you can pay to get out of it.
"No law enforcement agency will do that. If you legitimately missed some sort of court date, the court would notify you — or they would have let you know you had a court date."
Halverson said the department generally receives at least one call per week regarding these scams, and he fears that there are even more cases that they never hear about.
"I honestly believe we don't hear about some of these, because people are embarrassed," he said, adding that others may simply block the number and not file a report after recognizing a scam.
Daniels, for her part, said she informed the police after receiving the call at her home.
"They said there's a lot of scams out there," she said. "I know that's true, but it seems like the public should be alerted about this."