Saturday, December 20, 2014

Telephone scammer is posing as a sheriff's deputy

If you get a call from the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department -- hang up and call them back.

Telephone scammer is posing as a sheriff's deputy

If you get a call from the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department -- hang up and call them right back.

The Sheriff's Department has received reports of a telemarketing scam in which the caller claims to be a sheriff's deputy, and then attempts to get the answerer to provide personal information. 

Montco detectives are investigating at least one man "with a heavy accent" who has called local residents claiming to be "Deputy Thomas O'Brien," said real-life Sheriff's Lt. Gregory Womelsdorf.  The scammer claimed he was following up on false charges against the answerer, and told them to call "Detective Samuel Baxter" at an out-of-state phone number to discuss the case.  "O'Brien" would also ask for the answerer's date of birth, Social Security Number and address -- the type of personal information easily used to commit identity theft.

“Impersonating a law enforcement officer is a serious crime and it ruins the trust that people have for official law enforcement officers,” said Sheriff Eileen Whalon Behr.

Behr emphasized that the Sheriff's Department "does not make phone calls regarding details of civil matters and we don’t collect personal information over the phone."

Identity theives are constantly evolving their tactics.  So a good rule of thumb is to never give out personal information unless you are the initiator of the call, email, web form, etc.  Whether it's your bank, your insurance company, police, or some other possibly legitimate entity, just hang up, look up the number yourself and contact them directly.

If you want to report a potential scam call, contact the (real) Montgomery County Sheriff's Department at 215-278-3331 or email sheriffoffice@montcopa.org. You can also contact your local police department, call the U.S. Attorney's Office at 215-861-8200, or submit a claim online.

The D.A.'s office has posted tips on how to avoid scams and fraud, and you can also check out the National Crime Prevention Council.

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Jessica Parks and Carolyn Davis
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