Scammers are using a new technique called “caller ID spoofing” to trick San Diegans into believing there is a warrant out for their arrest, according to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
Smartphone apps or websites allow users to program the number that shows up on a caller ID, and thieves are using the technology to pretend they are your bank or even the police.
“Folks are now starting to spoof the caller IDs of the victims, and they're using the sheriff's public phone number to make it look like it’s more of a legitimate call coming in,” said Sheriff’s Lt. Ken Nelson.
In spoofing apps, all you have to do is enter your phone number, the number you want to call and the number you want to show up in the caller ID.
Using the false ID, scammers pose as sheriff’s employees and call victims, claiming an arrest warrant is in their name due to failure to pay taxes, appear for jury duty or other false threats.
Officials say the pushy caller will use the name of an actual sheriff’s employee, give the real telephone number of a station or substation and have the victim’s personal information like a former address.
They’ll also threaten people with jail time if they don’t pay up. They go on to ask for more personal information and a credit or debit card.
“They just download an app and try to steal your hard-earned information,” said San Diego resident Edward Wilkinson. “I think that's unfair and people should be aware of things like that."
Under the Truth Caller Act of 2009, it is a federal crime to spoof a caller ID to commit fraud or harm, but not all spoofing is illegal.
Deputies say when in doubt, just hang up and call back. No sheriff’s employee will every contact a person by phone to demand money or any form of payment, officials say.
“We have not seen the caller ID spoofing prior to this,” said Nelson. “This is just a new twist to an old scam. Unfortunately they simply take advantage of the current technology."
If you have been a victim of this scam, call the sheriff’s department at 858-565-5200.
If you’ve experienced caller ID spoofing in a different situation, officials say you should file a report on the Federal Communications Commission’s website.