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What do you do when scammers pretend to be cops?



By Samir Knox
Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Via- Wyoming News Exchange

CHEYENNE — Multiple people have reportedly been targeted by a scam in which a caller poses as a member of the Laramie County Sheriff ’s Office, going as far as to erroneously use the name of a senior LCSO official to make their scam seem more credible.


The Wyoming Tribune Eagle spoke with one person who was a victim of this scam and agreed to protect their identity and anonymity. An official with LCSO has confirmed the existence of the scam.

“The scammers called me at about three in the afternoon,” the individual said in an email to the WTE on Saturday, detailing their experience with the scam. “I think there was some method to the timing, because it gave me only a little time before banks close … Making their mark frantic is all part of the plan.”

The individual who spoke with the WTE was scammed out of more than $10,000, between two online transactions. They said that the caller “spoofed” an official LCSO number, making it appear on their phone like a sheriff ’s deputy was legitimately calling them.

“This is the most crucial part of their scam,” they wrote. “They are going to weave a fairy tale, the call coming from a legitimate number makes the fairy tale much easier to believe.”

The caller told the victim that they “had failed to show up for federal jury duty and there was a warrant for (their) arrest.”

The individual was transferred from a person posing as a sergeant with LCSO to a person posing as a lieutenant, they said. They were also texted a photograph of a warrant that the victim called “official-looking.”

“This is another important part of the scam, because it prevents you from talking to anyone who could advise you that you are not using your head,” the victim said of the falsified warrant.

The victim was advised to post a “good faith” bond to show the fake deputies that they were intent on clearing up the matter. The people on the phone instructed them to go to the bank and withdraw money. They were told that COVID restrictions prevented the individual from turning in cash or a check to the LCSO building, and they were instructed to deposit their money into a Bitcoin ATM at a local grocery store. This is where they should have known better, the individual said.

“(The caller) ended up convincing me to put the cash into a (Bitcoin) account which they had the numbers for,” the victim continued. “They then said it was not the right amount, and they would issue me a refund for that when I got there, but … I had to go through the whole process again, which I stupidly did. They tried a third time, but, thankfully, the bank was closed and they told me to go home and not say anything to anyone.

“… Of course, as soon as I got home, very shaken, my partner said, ‘This is a scam.’ It was like the curtain was instantly pulled back and I knew it was indeed a scam.”

The victim said they were informed by the caller they would call again, to follow up about a refund the following morning. Someone did, using a “spoofed” number again, but the victim said they knew better that time.

“I immediately called the real Sheriff ’s Office and reported the scam, for what little that can do,” the victim said. “Believe it or not, these guys had the audacity to call me again in the morning, using the spoofed number. I answered believing it might be the real deputy following up. Of course, by this time, I had come to my senses and hung up on them. Haven’t heard from them since.”

Undersheriff Chance Walkama told the WTE on Monday the agency was aware of the scam and that some scammers erroneously used his first name, posing as “Deputy Chance,” to lend some credibility to their call.

“It appears that individuals are calling, representing us, and they’re using a phone masking device to give a local number, pretty similar to ours,” Walkama said. “In that they’re (telling individuals) that they missed court or missed a summons and kind of scolding them about that and pretending to be a deputy. … Then, the next thing they’re doing is telling people that they need to pay money. Thankfully, that’s really turned off a lot of people.

“We would never ask for any payment over the phone or tell you that you’re wanted over the phone, either. We usually do that in person because, obviously, … it would not give us the tactical advantage to make threats or tell somebody that they have to make a payment over the phone.”

He said these scams are mostly targeting older people, with one scammer posing as the estranged grandson of an individual asking for bail money. He offered some tips for how to avoid falling victim to something like that.

“People are more than welcome to give us a call back,” he said. “I’d recommend you ask for the badge number, and then give us a call. Our main line is 307-633-4800.”

Walkama said the problem is, in many ways, out of their control.

“It’s out of our hands because anybody can use these different applications to mask their phone numbers and put that number in,” he added. “Once they do that, they initiate the phone call.”

He said LCSO was trying to get a detective in the agency to look into working with companies that provide number masking services to block some of their numbers, but was not sure about how effective that would be.

Concluding their remarks to the WTE, the victim of the scam offered a few pieces of advice to those who may fall victim to a scam, going forward:

  • “The law enforcement authorities will never call you about an arrest. The Sheriff ’s office confirmed that.”
  •  “Scammers can spoof any number. They can spoof a legitimate law enforcement number. They could spoof the number of your children or your parents. That spoofed number is what can suck you in. In those cases, I would hang up on them and dial the number. If it is a scam, you will know in just a second.”
  • “No matter what, just hang up on anyone wanting untraceable cash or Bitcoin from you.”
  • “You are never as smart as you think you are.”
  • “Once a scammer gets to the part about Bitcoin accounts, nothing legitimate is going to happen.”

The individual said they hoped their story would serve as a cautionary tale to those who might fall victim to something like they did and hoped to raise awareness about the danger scams like that could pose to those who are uneducated.


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