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Police warn about scammers threatening arrests

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 23 2013 7:50 a.m. MST

FARMINGTON — The message on Sharon Bissell's voicemail said a warrant would be issued for her and her husband's arrest if she did not call back immediately.

But Bissell knew right away it was a scam.

"He said that we would be put under arrest unless we called the number he left us and let them know we paid the money," she said. "I knew there was no reason we'd be put under arrest anyway because we believe in being honest."

The call was from someone claiming to be from a Davis County agency, although the caller did not specify which department. All the person said was that Bissell had a bounced check and needed to take care of it right away.

It's a scam that several people have come in contact with in Utah recently. But as of Wednesday, Davis County Sheriff's Sgt. Susan Poulsen said investigators have fortunately not found anyone who has fallen for it.

The scam goes something like this: someone with an out-of-state area code calls a resident saying that a checked bounced or there is a credit problem and that the person needs to wire money or send a debit card number immediately or risk being arrested.

Three people with similar stories have recently contacted the sheriff's office, saying they were called from an "investigating agency." Since news of the scam broke, Poulsen said other residents had commented on the sheriff's Facebook page that they, too, had received similar calls.

The scammers are targeting people who have at one time actually had a bad check problem, Poulsen said. Investigators did not know Wednesday how the group was getting those names and numbers. But in every case, Poulsen said the bad checks had been taken care of years ago.

Those potential victims have instead contacted police. When detectives contacted the alleged scammers while posing as victims, they were told they were talking to a processing group that was collecting on bad checks, according to the sheriff's office.

When the officers revealed that they were really law enforcement, the person on the other line quickly ended the call.

"The scammers said, 'This is a bad number, this a wrong number,' and ended up hanging up," Poulsen said.

Residents should understand that the office never takes money or issues warrants over the phone, she said.

"The sheriff's office does not operate this way," the sergeant said. "The sheriff's office, the courts, they don't call people and tell them a warrant has been issued for their arrest. If a warrant is issued for a person's arrest, we'll visit them in person."

Bissell said it was because of those reasons that she didn't believe the debt collectors were real.

"Not me. I don't give any information over the phone," she said. "I'm angry about it. I don't like it. The police do not operate like that."

The phone numbers typically used by the alleged scammers had Wisconsin, Indiana and New York City area codes.

Contributing: Shara Park

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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