Residents warned to beware of phone scam

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The Riverside Sheriff’s Department is warning residents to beware of phone calls from persons identifying themselves as agents of the Social Security Administration. File photo

The Riverside Sheriff’s Department has recently identified an increase in reports of a specific telephone scam in which victims are being called by persons identifying themselves as agents of the Social Security Administration. These fictitious agents then advise the victim of felonious activity associated with their social security number. The victim is then directed to post a monetary bond to prevent an arrest warrant from being issued.

Frequently, victims report that significant lengths are gone through to establish the caller’s credibility. In several cases, the caller requested a contact number for the local law enforcement agency where the victim lives. The agent directs the victim to wait for a call from the local law enforcement agency. The victim receives a call from a Caller ID identified number naming the local law enforcement agency. The person on the phone identifies themselves as an officer with the local agency, who then directs the victim to comply with the “agent” when called again. The fictitious agent calls back then threatens the victim with a felony arrest warrant unless a bond is posted.

The fictitious agent advises the bond can be most conveniently taken care of with a Google Play, Apple Pay, Target, Walmart, or other commercial gift/payment card. Once purchased, the victim is directed to read off the coded numbers on the back of the cards to the agent, completing payment of the bond.

The public should be aware that no police or government agency will ask for or accept a store gift card for payment of a lawful, legitimate fine or fee.

This type of scam has several variations. In addition to callers claiming to represent the Social Security Administration, the IRS, out-of-state police agencies and other government agencies have also been falsely represented. The consistent theme is the victim is directed to submit the gift card bond. The victim is told the bond will be refunded when the criminal issue is resolved. Since the cards are purchased then provided to the fictitious agents, there is no mechanism for reimbursing the victim. Similar scams have the victim going directly to the bank for withdrawals.

Anyone wishing to report this type of crime is encouraged to contact Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Telephone Reporting Unit at 951-776-1099.

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