Scammers posing as sheriff's deputies preying on elderly, Patrol Chief warns

Rancho Santa Fe Patrol Chief Matt Wellhouser is warning the community that phone scammers are using the San Diego Sheriff's Department as a ruse to trick seniors into wiring money.

In the past week the sheriff's eldery abuse unit received information about two telephone scams that prey upon the elderly residents of San Diego County.

The first scam involved a suspect who claimed to be a relative of an elderly woman whom he could not reach by phone. The suspect asked the Sheriff's Department to perform a welfare check on the elderly woman. The deputy drove to the woman's home and made contact with the woman who stated she did not know the person who called the sheriff's. Additionally, the woman admitted that she had previously fallen for a phone scam that had sent funds to a suspect via a money transfer service. The responding deputy confronted the suspect via phone and discovered he had used the department to try and reestablish contact with the victim so he could continue the financial abuse.

The second scam involved an elderly male who received a call telling him he had won a large sum of money in a sweepstakes but had to pay a fee to receive it. The suspect identified himself as a deputy sheriff and gave an actual deputy's name. The suspect further stated that the sheriff's department was facilitating the money transfer. The victim withdrew the money from his bank but decided to visit the local sheriff's station to speak with the deputy who allegedly called him. Fortunately, the deputy whose identity was used was working that day and able to prevent the victim from sending the money.

Impersonating a law enforcement officer or deputy is a misdemeanor crime punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 or a year in local custody or both. Obtaining monies by trick or device is a felony punishable by time in state prison.

The public should be advised that the sheriff's department does not facilitate or participate in any sweepstakes, lotteries or other money transfer schemes. Elderly residents should not send or wire transfer money to anyone based upon a phone call or series of calls without verifying facts first. Phone scammers routinely use money transfer service to fleece the elderly and any reference to such services should be considered a red flag warning. For questions or additional information, please contact the San Diego Sheriff's Elderly Abuse Unit at (858) 974-2322.

— Submitted press release.

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