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Posted on May 15, 2014 | 2:25 p.m.

Sheriff’s Department Issues Warning About Phone Scams

Source: Kelly Hoover for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department wants to warn its residents about two recent phone scams that we have experienced locally.

In the most recent case, a resident was victimized by a caller who identified himself as a current sheriff’s deputy who claimed he was conducting an investigation. The scammer told the citizen that his name was on a winning verification notice from Publisher’s Clearing House but that another individual had been found in possession of that document. The caller claimed the FBI was involved as well.

During the conversation, the caller told the victim that in order to claim the Publisher’s Clearing House prize, he must purchase a bond and send it through Western Union. When the victim did not know where the nearest Western Union office was, the caller convinced him to provide his credit card information over the phone.

Also recently, the Sheriff’s Department received notice of several local victims related to a nationwide phone scam targeting Indian Americans and South Asian Americans. In this scheme, the callers claim to be from the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or a law enforcement agency.

Typically, they have the victim’s last four digits of their Social Security number. The scammers tell the victims that they owe money to the federal government and if they don’t pay immediately over the phone with a pre-paid credit card, they face deportation, a freezing of assets and/or jail.

The Federal Trade Commission issued a warning about the scam on March 21, but Santa Barbara County has just recently had reports of this scam occurring on a local level. The IRS is advising victims of the scam to contact them at 800.829.1040.

The Sheriff’s Department wants to caution residents about giving out any personal or financial information to anyone over the phone. If you receive a call from someone who claims to be from an official agency who is asking for this sort of information, you should always hang up and verify the legitimacy of the caller. It’s also important to note that the Sheriff’s Department does not collect payment of any sort over the phone.

If you receive a call of this nature, it is fraudulent and should be reported immediately.

— Kelly Hoover is a public information specialist for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department.

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