Monday, March 25, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 3

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on April 10th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 6 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 19, Issue 6

Sheriff's Office reports uptick in phone scams


Reports of attempted phone scams have significantly increased countywide in the past several weeks, according to a statement released on April 5 by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office.

"Unfortunately we have an ongoing cycle of scams," Public Information Officer Kelly Hoover told the Sun, adding that scammers target Santa Barbara County residents off and on year-round. "It's just unbelievable how many scammers there are out there."

Although Hoover said she didn't know exactly how many scams were reported in the last few weeks, tax season often brings an uptick in reports of scammers who impersonate IRS collections agents. Scammers targeting residents of Santa Barbara County often suggest that victims owe the government money, Hoover said, demand payments over the phone, and sometimes threaten deportation.

The most frequently reported scam now, Hoover said, includes a caller impersonating a Sheriff's deputy. In many cases, the caller tells the victim that the Sheriff's Office issued a bench warrant for the victim's arrest after the victim failed to attend jury duty.

Hoover said scammers use a variety of scare tactics to panic victims. They often prey on the elderly and vulnerable, use caller identification manipulation so that the call appears to be coming from a valid number—often the Sheriff's Office or IRS—and, in some cases, callers threaten lives. The commonly reported "virtual kidnapping scam" involves a caller claiming to have kidnapped a family member for ransom.

"That's very frightening to people," Hoover said. "They all feel victimized just by getting that phone call."

While many individuals who report scam calls to the Sheriff's Office were not successfully scammed, Hoover said those who do become victims are often financially and emotionally devastated. Phone scams are extremely difficult to trace and investigate, Hoover said.

"It's frustrating for us because these people come in and often they've lost part of their life savings," Hoover said. "It's often people who can't afford it, and it can really have a devastating effect on them."

Hoover said residents should never give personal or financial information out over the phone. If a caller is asking for money or identifying information, residents should immediately hang up and contact the entity the caller claims to be calling from to verify the information, even if caller ID shows a valid number. Most entities, Hoover said, bill through the mail.

Residents should also be extremely wary of callers asking for payments through prepaid debit cards, gift cards, money orders, and wire transfers.

To report phone scams, call the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP or For IRS phone scam complaints, call the treasury inspector general for tax administration at 800-366-4484.

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