Scams are nothing new. But deputies say a local case involving a death threat is rare and serves as a warning to others.
“It involved a person who received death threats over a cell phone related to a scam,” said Sgt. Mark Varnau.
The scam artist told the victim that she had won some money and needed to send a fee to claim those winnings, according to deputies.
“She refused, didn’t fall for the scam and then the person at the end of the phone became threatening, basically saying that ‘did she want to have a bullet in her head’?” Varnau said.
The person also claimed to know where she lived.
“So that was intimidating for her and I think it would be intimidating for just about anyone else,” Varnau said.
“It’s just another technique by the scam artist to try and get this person to cooperate,” Varnau said. “Very commonly the suspects in these cases are out of state or out of country and the death threat is just another level of intimidation to try to get an unwary victim to send them money.”
He says no, these scams are nothing new. But they do tend to evolve over time.
“They’ll put a little twist on it. They’ll change it up a little bit. When they start to get to the point where they’re threatening, that’s a new twist on the scam,” Varnau said.
Bottom line: They’re feeling pressure to produce illicit money.
“Some people will in fact fall for that. They’ll go ahead and send those monies out of fear that something’s going to happen to them,” Varnau said.
His message: Don’t believe them.
“The reality of someone coming to harm you over a $500 check that you didn’t send them is pretty much zero,” Varnau said.
Think about it. It wouldn’t make economic sense for the criminals.
“It would cost them more money to get on an airplane and fly here and now you have a whole record of somebody flying to San Diego from wherever to try to collect $500,” Varnau said.
He says the scam artists work on a large number theory.
“They’re constantly on the Internet or constantly on the telephone making calls all over the U.S. from all over the world trying to get people to send these monies,” Varnau said.
So how do you avoid these scams? First of all, you can’t win something that you haven’t legitimately entered.
“You should not be getting phone calls from some lottery or business venture over seas saying that you’ve been selected or picked or that you’ve won something. It just doesn’t occur that way,” Varnau said.
Secondly, look at the telephone numbers.
“See where they’re calling from. Now, there are systems out there that let suspects hide their phone number or put up a fake phone number and that can be a little bit difficult, but we recommend that people get caller ID,” Varnau said.