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Authorities close in on phone scammers targeting North Bay residents

Authorities are closing in on the perpetrators of a phone scam that has been targeting residents in the North Bay.
Friday, July 11, 2014
Authorities are closing in on the perpetrators of a scam that scares law-abiding citizens into paying fines for back taxes they don't owe. This scam has been seen in all 50 states and is just making its way into the North Bay.

Larkspur resident Sarah Davis received a phone call from a man who identified himself as a sheriff deputy and accused her of ignoring a jury summons.

"I said to him, 'I did not get it. I did not receive it in the mail,'" Davis said.

She said the purported deputy would not accept that and that he had an answer for everything. He told her he worked on the second floor of the Civic Center in San Rafael. He also told her she would need to pay a $1,500 fine.

"He said I was under a bench warrant and he could send someone out and arrest me that very afternoon," Davis said.

She was instructed to go to 7-Eleven and purchase a prepaid card. She immediately ran down to her partner Tom Bradner. "She told me that, 'We got to go. We got to go,'" Bradner said.

Davis told him if she didn't get the money right away, she was going to jail. Bradner blames himself for not asking more questions. "I'm quite clear that Sarah ought to have me picked up by the local sheriff for aiding and abetting," he said.

The two drove to 7-Eleven with the impostor on the phone every step of the way.

John George of the Northern California Computer Crimes Task Force said people have been scammed in Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties.

The calls are coming from out-of-state prisons using prepaid phones that have been smuggled into the correctional facilities.

Authorities won't reveal what state or which prisons. "More than one prison. But there has been, but we know this scam is going on across the nation and I have no reason to believe why it would only be conducted out of one state or one or couple prisons," George said.

The 7-Eleven store would not let Davis and Bradner buy more than $500 worth of prepaid cards, so they ended up purchasing three different cards at three different 7-Elevens.

After each purchase, they gave the scammer the PIN associated with the card and it's presumed he immediately withdrew the money.

It wasn't until the couple asked to meet the man claiming to be the deputy did they know they had been scammed. They were instructed to wait in the parking lot of the Marin County Civic Center, but the scammer never showed up.

"I just looked at my partner and said, 'We've been scammed,'" Davis said.

George said at least 50 people in the North Bay have received similar calls. He commends Davis for telling her story to help others.

"I want to thank her for coming forward and, you know, giving the statement not only to us, but also to the news organizations so that the word can get out," George said.

The jury summons scam is just one of the scams being perpetrated. Others are getting calls saying that they have a red light violation or that they owe back taxes.

If a person receives a call like that, they should ask for a name and identification number and then confirm it with the agency.

It's important to remember that authorities would never call someone on the phone asking for money.
Related Topics:
news scam 7 On Your Side prison telephone jury duty crime napa county solano county sonoma county marin county u.s. & world Larkspur
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