The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department issued a warning for a tricky new phone scam on Sunday. Scammers posing as the authorities are making cold calls in the San Diego region, attempting to defraud victims out of their money.
The scam follows a classic intimidation technique employed by con men. Posing as a police officer allows scammers to confuse and bully their victims. People who would not typically fall for these tricks can become overwhelmed by confident-sounding criminals posing as authority figures.
The San Diego Country Sherriff’s Department issued the warning on Sunday. According to the report, a scammer identifying himself as Lt. Hartman conducts the scams, claiming to be a police officer. Somehow, the scammer’s software changes the caller ID to the same number as San Diego’s sheriff’s department.
The scammer’s message, which sounds pre-recorded, tells the victim that they have missed a scheduled court date. The call prompts the victim to travel alone to the sheriff’s headquarters to resolve the situation. However, none of this is true. People with outstanding warrants don’t need to appear at a police station over the weekend. Instead, they should turn themselves in during business hours on a weekday at a sheriff’s court location.
San Diego authorities issued an official statement on the matter, clearing up any confusion residents may have had. “This is a scam. To be clear, the Sheriff’s Department does not employ a Lieutenant Hartman. The Sheriff’s Department main office is also closed on weekends,” the statement reassures residents.
“Outstanding warrants cannot be resolved over the phone or at sheriff’s department headquarters,” the department goes on. San Diego authorities urge residents to scrutinize any calls they get from supposed law enforcement officers.
Law enforcement scams are scary because they prey on your fears. Most people want to be in good standing with their local authorities, so these calls can catch them off-guard. As a rule, you should ignore any phone calls from people who demand money.
Law enforcement officers should only contact you via official channels. Likewise, they shouldn’t ask you to resolve warrants over the phone. Arrest warrants and court appearances get directed through local court facilities, face-to-face, or over official email correspondence. If law enforcement officers need to speak with you, they will typically send you a letter or pay a visit to your home directly.