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Updated Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 3 PM EST
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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 08/21/13
Sheriff's office warns
about 'spoof' scammers
by CHRIS GRAYIndividuals claiming to be with local law enforcement are preying on Macomb County residents.
Observer Staff Writer
The Macomb County Sheriff's Office is assisting Eastpointe police in an investigation that coerced one woman out of $1,200 by impersonating county deputies and Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham.
An Eastpointe woman reported on Aug. 12 that she was contacted by someone identifying themselves as an officer of the law. The fake officer said they knew the woman took out a loan in the past and was now part of a fraud investigation.
About a week later she received a call that her caller ID listed as originating from the Macomb County Sheriff's Office. An individual claiming to be Wickersham told her to cooperate by paying $1,200 using a pre-paid money card to avoid criminal charges.
Wickersham<the real one<said neither he or anyone in his department made the calls. He said his department does not conduct financial transactions on the phone, and that calls requesting money over the phone should be regarded as suspicious.
"Anytime someone says they are a law enforcement officer and have warrants out and are out to scam money, we in law enforcement all take it personally," Wickersham said.
The sheriff's office suspects the scammers used a computer program to change the caller identification information to make it appear as another number. This is known as "spoofing."
If residents receive such a call, Wickersham said they should ask for a return phone number, end the call and report the matter to local police.
Wickersham said the sheriff's office is assisting the Eastpointe Police Department with the computer crimes task force. He said he wasn't aware of any recent scams or frauds taking place in the greater Romeo area, but still warns people to be skeptical.
"If they worry or think something is wrong, don't fall for it, see if there is really a warrant you're involved in," he said.
The Romeo Police Department reports it sees its fair share of fraud reports. Police Chief Greg Paduch said the department has and will likely take more reports on scams, but reminded residents that it falls on them to double check suspicious contacts.
"If they have any question at all of what is happening on the other end of a phone call or e-mail is legitimate, they should be cautious," he said.
He said if residents suspect a fraud or scam they should call the department, but warns it is tough to obtain a conviction in such crimes.
"A lot of calls and e-mails come internationally, or post office boxes are being used," he said.
He said the best thing to do is delete junk e-mail and avoid giving out personal information such as Social Security numbers, credit card numbers or bank account information.
Like other law enforcement agencies, Paduch said the local department will never demand payment over the phone.