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Posted on February 6, 2014 | 4:15 p.m.

Sheriff’s Department Warns of Phone Scammers Posing as Law Enforcement

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

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department wants to warn residents about a nationwide phone scam we are experiencing locally at an increasing level.

In the last several weeks, the Sheriff’s Department has received a large number of complaints from individuals across Santa Barbara County who have received a phone call that appears to be coming directly from the Sheriff’s Department.

The caller claims to be a Sheriff’s Department employee who is alerting the citizen that they have an outstanding warrant and will be arrested if they don’t pay the fine immediately. The caller then instructs the resident to wire money or use a pre-paid credit card to pay the fee.

Through caller identification manipulation, the call displays as coming from the main number at the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, and the caller gives personal information about the resident they have found online, making call can seem legitimate.

Unfortunately, we have had several cases of residents who have taken these calls seriously and forwarded funds to the scammer. Even in the cases where the residents didn’t actually become victims, most felt threatened enough to call and verify the claim with the Sheriff’s Department, which is the recommended course of action.

The Sheriff’s Department wants to remind residents that it is not the practice of the agency to call residents who have warrants. If you receive a phone call of this nature, you should immediately call the Sheriff’s Department or any other law enforcement agency where the caller claims to be calling from to verify the information. We caution residents never to give out personal or financial information over the phone.

Santa Barbara County is one of many communities in several states across the country recently who have experienced phone calls from scammers posing as local law enforcement officials and threatening residents to pay a fee for an arrest warrant.

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

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