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ON YOUR SIDE: Ozark Police Department warns of ‘spoofing’ scam involving department

Published: Jul. 19, 2021 at 3:16 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 20, 2021 at 6:49 PM CDT
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OZARK, Mo. - The Ozark Police Department is warning of a spoofing scam using the department’s address and phone number.

The department received multiple complaints of fraudulent activity associated with the department’s phone number (417) 581-6600 and address. In each incident, callers contacted victims through phone. The caller claims to be part of the Ozark Police Department. The caller told victims they had active warrants for their arrest. The caller requested money, along with verification of residence and two forms of identification.

Investigators say this is a scam. Do not provide this information over the phone or in response to a solicitation via phone. The Ozark Police Department is separate from any court, does not receive or request bond payments, and will never make such requests via phone.

If you are contacted by a law enforcement officer via phone who identifies themselves as an Ozark officer or detective, and you have questions about the authenticity that person’s identity, please hang up and contact the Ozark Police Department at (417) 581-6600. You will be transferred to the appropriate officer or detective as needed. Officers are always available to respond in person to an address in the city if necessary to verify or validate their authenticity.

The Better Business Bureau is also asking that you go to their website at https://bbb.org and report it on their Scam Tracker which will help them keep up with the activity in our area.

These type of fraudulent activities are on the rise these days and most of the calls originate from India.

They’re known as “government impostors” because most of them are claiming to be government-related representatives. A Better Business Bureau study showed that 44 percent of Americans have been been exposed to the fraud attempt and 77 percent of Americans have at least some knowledge of them...yet...

“There’s a lot of people who know about the scam who still fall for the scam,” acknowledged Stephanie Garland, the Regional Director of the Better Business Bureau in Springfield.

That’s falling to the scame to the tune of a staggering $450 million over a five-year span the study covered from 2014-2019. The research also shows that the top five government entities that are impersonated are led by Social Security followed by Medicare, the IRS, government grants and law enforcement.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that scammers can simply use the same script but sub out the name,” Garland explained.

In this latest local case they’re identifying themselves as officers with the Ozark Police Department and the caller ID shows the department’s number.

Even if the person being called hasn’t been in trouble with the law before, the callers don’t let that stop them from pursuing their goal of getting money.

“They play on the fact that it may have occurred without this person’s knowledge or they convince that person they’ve committed some crime that they don’t know about,” said Captain Derek Hill, the Deputy Chief of Police in Ozark.

“On the phone the scammer says that in order to go ahead and make this go away you need to pay money right now,” Garland added. “A lot of people are very desperate and they fall for this.”

But the sure red flag for realizing it’s a scam?

“The police are never going to call you and threaten you or say you’ve got to pay up because otherwise they’re going to take you to jail,” Garland said.

“The Ozark Police Department does not contact people by phone about anything to do with potential criminal charges they may be facing or outstanding citations or warrants,” Hill added. “All that stuff would be conducted by the courts but they don’t contact people by phone either so nobody would be calling and asking for money or information about you over the phone. It’s usually done through mail correspondence or in-person.”

While you usually think of senior citizens being susceptible to this kind of fraud, Garland pointed out that’s not the case this time.

“The people ages 20-59 are more likely to lose money to this,” she said. “And the younger victims felt that they had emotional consequences from this scam. So not only does the scam impact people in terms of their pocketbook, but for the younger generation this is heavily impacting their heart, their mind and their life.”

And just to prove nobody’s exempt, the scammers even call...the cops.

“They told me they were with the Ozark Police Department and they were going to come arrest me,” Hill said with a smile about the call he received from the scammers. “I obviously knew that wasn’t the case. I told them I was the Deputy Chief of the Ozark Police Department and then they got belligerent with me and hung the phone up.”

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