Local police, DOJ warn of scammers posing as law enforcement

Spoofed calls, which look local, are on the rise nationwide

By Tommy Lopez - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. - People are losing thousands of dollars to a scam that police are seeing a lot in southwest Virginia. The U.S. Department of Justice sent a warning about it Tuesday.

Callers are pretending to be police officers to take people’s money over the phone. Often, they're spoofing the calls, meaning the number that shows up is fake, but shows a local area code.

Roanoke County police Detective Tim Knicely said spoofing makes it more believable that the person on the other end is who they say they are.

"They'll call and pose as an officer or deputy, and then when the 540 area code number pops up, they think, oh, well it's a local area, it must be legitimate," he said. "But law enforcement would never take money over the phone to get rid of a warrant."

These aren’t recordings. The scammers say they have an arrest warrant. They might give actual names of officers, or list a badge number.

"Any time somebody impersonates law enforcement, obviously it's going to be a concern for us," Knicely said.

The scammers are asking for credit card information or gift card purchases. They talk fast and try to keep you on the phone, and they could be calling from anywhere.

"A lot of times, these people are calling outside Virginia, and a lot of times, it's not even in the United States," he said.

Julie Wheeler, with the Better Business Bureau, said you can’t take an incoming call number at face value.

"You cannot rely on caller ID. I can't say that enough. You cannot rely on it because it's way too easy to make it say whatever you want it to say," she said.

The scams are affecting areas all over southwest Virginia. Spokespeople for Lynchburg police and the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office say they’re seeing a lot of these calls.

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