Detectives investigating after scammer poses as police agency official

Detectives investigating after scammer poses as police agency official

PIMA COUNTY, AZ ( Tucson News Now) - Someone is posing over the phone as a Pima County Sheriff's Department official and attempting to solicit personal information and/or money to pay for outstanding fines.

It's happened several times in recent weeks, escalating to point where the caller is asking potential victims to meet at PCSD locations in order to exchange money via electronic transfer.

Officials said the scammer initially identified himself as a "Lieutenant Phillips," but is now using the name "Detective Mike Terrell."

In some cases, he reportedly tried to get a vehicle identification number (VIN) for the victim's car, and in other cases, the scammer claimed the victim had a warrant and needed to pay the fine immediately.

"We want to remind you that we will never solicit a payment or request money over the phone," said PCSD Deputy Ryan Inglett. "We also will not request any of your personal information over the phone, such as your social security number or the VIN for your vehicle."

Interestingly enough, a similar scam is also happening in Phoenix where victims are getting calls from somebody pretending to be the public information officer for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department.

When one victim recently called MCSD to confirm that person's name – a person who does in fact work for the department – she mistakenly sent more than $3,500 to the scammer for failure to appear for jury duty.

"Our names as deputies get sent out to the community on regular basis," Inglett said. "So there's a chance these people are getting that information and using it to their advantage."

If you receive such a phone call, "Hang up!" said PCSD Deputy Tracy Suitt. "Do not become a scammer's next victim."

Officials said this is also a problem in communities like Green Valley and Oro Valley, where scammers know the elderly tend to listen just a little bit more to authority.

"We've had a couple cases in Oro Valley that have been their entire life savings," said Oro Valley Police Lt. Kara Riley, referring to several email and phone scams that cost residents virtually everything. "I mean, how do you get that back?"

Which is why authorities want seniors and their loved ones to be aware of what's happening.

"Don't be afraid to talk about, even if your mom or dad gets mad," Tucson Police Department Sgt. Kim Bay said. "They might, but it's a good question to ask."

Tucson resident Renee Creswell agreed.

"My husband and his parents have a $500 rule. If you need to spend more than $500, please just clear it with me," she said, referencing her husband's agreement with his parents. "And they're totally on board with it. They're really glad that we're looking out for them."

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