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OSP and Department of Justice warn of warrant scam

Fresh off the heels of a previous phone scam in which criminals claiming to be state troopers swindled people out of money for nonexistent arrest warrants, Oregon State Police are warning people of a similar scam.

On Tuesday, July 16, a Mosier-area resident alerted state police that he received a phone call from a person identifying himself as “Deputy James Anderson with the Oregon State Police,” said Lt. Gregg Hastings, Oregon State Police spokesman. The caller provided a badge number, said the man had a warrant for his arrest and directed him to call a “410” area code phone number to speak with a “Jason Washington.”

An Oregon State Police detective, posing as the Mosier resident who received the call, called the phone number and spoke with a man who had a Middle Eastern accent and identified himself as “Jason Washington.” The man was very persistent and had knowledge of the Mosier resident’s personal information, including his Oregon driver’s license, Social Security number and email address.

He told the detective to immediately send $549, provided a bogus case number, read a fake affidavit listing warrant charges and directed the money be sent via Western Union or a reloadable prepaid card that could be obtained at a Rite Aid store. When asked for an address where the money could be sent, “Jason Washington” hung up.

Last November, Oregon State Police began to receive reports of a similar scam in which Oregon residents reported getting calls from people claiming to be with state police and demanding money in exchange for dropping criminal charges or clearing arrest warrants. These callers have used titles of “Officer” and “Deputy” and had similar threatening approaches and payment options.

Information online indicates similar calls to out-of-state residents have been made during the past week from the same “410” phone number. In some instances, the caller provided the same name and represented himself as a police officer from state law enforcement agencies in Rhode Island, New Mexico and California.

State police offers the following the following tips to avoid being scammed:

n Legitimate law enforcement agencies do not call citizens seeking payment for outstanding traffic citations or warrants.

n Oregon State Police does not call individuals and demand money under any circumstances.

n Individuals claiming to collect debts may try to instill fear in potential victims to persuade them to send money.

The Oregon Judicial Department advises that courts may use an independent collection service to collect unpaid monetary judgments and fines. But if people believe they are being scammed regarding an alleged unpaid traffic citation or other court-imposed financial obligation, they can:

n Ask the collector (caller) for information specific to the alleged warrant or unpaid traffic citation. The caller should have the court case number, date of ticket and vehicle license number.

n Verify the debt or confirm other details by calling the OJD collections hotline at 1-888-564-2828.

n Use the OJD’s Courts ePay to directly pay money owed to state courts for most traffic citations, civil fees or criminal fines. For more information, go to www.courts.oregon.gov/OJD/OnlineServices/ePay/Pages/index.aspx.

Reloadable prepaid cards and similar cash-load cards have been the focus of scammers around the country in their efforts to defraud unsuspecting people. Avoid reacting to requests that require you to purchase reloadable prepaid cards. But if you do purchase one for any reason, treat it like cash because unlike credit cards, transactions using these cards can never be reversed.

If you receive a similar call, disconnect without providing any information or taking any instructions from the caller. Contact your local police department, sheriff’s office or Oregon State Police. You also may file a complaint with the Oregon Department of Justice Consumer Protection Office via the Consumer Hotline at 1-877-877-9392 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or complete an online Consumer Complaint Form anytime at www.doj.state.or.us/consumer/Pages/complaint.aspx.

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