Detectives of the San Mateo Police Department are investigating reports of telephone fraud schemes that are reported each week and new ones that are devised practically every day, police said.
The scam artists call claiming to be a police officer with an arrest warrant for an unpaid fine from a red light camera, a PG&E official saying the victim owes an unpaid bill and an IRS agent collecting a tax debt.
The criminals often target the most vulnerable people in the community, including the elderly, the infirm and those concerned about their immigration status, police said.
They frequently threaten the victims with arrest, cutting off their utilities, deportation or other penalties if they do not pay off the non-existent debts.
The callers frequently urge the victims to go to a store, buy a money debt card and call back with the number on the card to settle the debt.
Scammers like the money cards because funds are easily transferred from them and the cards are more difficult to track than wire transfers, police said.
San Mateo police advise the public to never to call back phone numbers provided by the solicitors and never wire money or provide money card information without first phoning the callers' employers to confirm any debts.
Residents of San Mateo who believe they received a call from a phone scammer should call the police department at (650) 522-7700.