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Scam alert: State warns of two cases involving counterfeit officers

Counterfeiting con, unpaid traffic scam both popping up


Two police impersonation scams are percolating throughout Oregon and the Oregon Justice Department and the Oregon State Police are issuing warnings about both.

Of concern are a counterfeiting con and an unpaid traffic scam. According to a press release issued jointly by both agencies, here’s the way the two scams operate:

Counterfeiting con

In this con, scammers call individuals at home claiming to be a police officer conducting an investigation of counterfeit money. They ask you to withdraw cash so they can “inspect” it. The bogus officer then disappears with your cash. It sounds hard to believe, but in the last few months, the Portland Police Bureau and the Multnomah Country Sherriff’s Office each received reports of scammers, posing as detectives, conning just two people out of more than $50,000.

The police do not need your money to investigate a counterfeit crime ring, said spokesmen for OSP and the OJD.

“We would never approach a citizen to assist us in an investigation of this type,” said OSP Spokesman Gregg Hastings.

Unpaid traffic scams

Scammers claiming to be with OSP are also placing pre-recorded phone calls to Oregonians telling them they owe $154 for unpaid traffic tickets. These calls, which begin with a siren sound, are fraudulent and should be ignored.

OSP first got word of the scam on March 26, when a citizen reported getting a call from a restricted number. An automated voice identified himself as “Alex James Murphy with the Oregon State Police.” The caller stated a “bench warrant” had been issued on an unpaid speeding ticket issued on Interstate 205.

The prerecorded call gave further instructions to get a Green Dot MoneyPak reloadable debit card and place $154 on the card, then call back another phone number with an 203 area code and provide the Green Dot MoneyPak card number and security code to pay the citation and avoid further legal action.

Last November, OSP received complaints from citizens regarding similar telephone calls from individuals claiming to be OSP troopers demanding money in exchange for dropping criminal charges or clearing arrest warrants. Two similar cases involved callers using titles of “officer” and “deputy."

Hastings said Oregonians should be aware that:

• OSP and any other legitimate law enforcement agency does not call citizens seeking payment for outstanding traffic citations.

• OSP does not call individuals and demand money from citizens under any circumstances.

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

The OJD advises that courts may use an independent collection service to collect unpaid monetary judgments and fines. If someone believes they are being scammed regarding an alleged unpaid traffic citation, they should:

• Ask the collector (caller) for information specific to the alleged unpaid traffic citation. They should have the court case number, date of ticket, vehicle license, location of violation, etc .

• If the call receiver wants additional detail about the debt or to verify what the caller is telling them, they can call the OJD collections hotline at 1-888-564-2828.

• OJD courts now have an online electronic payment service that allows citizens to pay for many types of court cases, including most traffic citations and many criminal and civil cases. (For more information, go to tinyurl.com/cmywx8c.)

According to Geoff Darling, chief investigator for the OJD’s Financial Fraud Section, Green Dot MoneyPak cards and similar cash-load cards have been the focus of scammers around the country to defraud unsuspecting people. Officials suggest avoid reacting to requests requiring you to purchase a MoneyPak and provide the card number via phone or by email. Treat MoneyPak cards like cash because unlike credit cards, MoneyPak transactions can never be reversed.

The Green Dot Corporation is aware of similar scams and has a link on its website to tips from the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (StopFraud.gov).

“People who impersonate a police officer not only commit a serious crime but also subvert people’s trust in other, genuine police officers,” said Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. She urged Oregonians to contact their local police department, sheriff’s office or state police if they believe they have been contacted by one of these scammers. Complaints can also be filed with the OJD at 1-877-877-9392 or online at oregonconsumer.gov.

 

 




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