Scammers impersonate local deputies


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Omar Benitez, Staff Reporter

Residents of Kittitas County have been experiencing scam calls impersonating Deputy Sheriff Scott Hoffman.

According to Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office Inspector Chris Whitsett, the calls impersonating the deputy started around last week and they consisted of threats to try to scam people.

“They impersonated the deputy,” Whitsett said. “They were telling citizens that they had a warrant for their arrest or that they’d failed to appear for court. [The people scamming] use a variety of different ways to try to intimidate and coerce people into eventually giving them money.”

Whitsett also said this particular scam call hasn’t stopped yet either. According to Whitsett, they were informed that someone received a call as recently as Tuesday Nov. 1. 

According to Whitsett, the sheriff’s office has had trouble finding leads. 

“We haven’t developed any leads yet, it’s been a spoofed number from a VoIP [Voice Over Internet Protocol]”, Whitsett said. “We don’t have any current information on where it’s coming from.”

Whitsett also said it’s often a long and difficult process to uncover who and where the scammers are.

“You can write warrants to get to an IP address, and write the next warrant to get to the internet provider and then another warrant to get to a VoIP service, and you follow a chain of technological search warrants,” Whitsett said. 

Even if law enforcement are able to find this information out, they can’t always do something about it.

“Ultimately these things are almost always happening in India and Nigeria or other countries where we don’t have any extradition powers or any authority to enforce criminal laws against fraud and theft,” Whitsett said.

Whitsett said this is often the case with most international scammers.

Even though law enforcement often run into the barrier of international borders, Whitsett said it’s important to prosecute the cases they can.

“We have seen cases like that in the U.S.,” Whitsett said. “And we have a much greater chance of prosecuting those cases, and we have prosecuted some cases.”

If caught, these scammers could face charges such as theft, identity theft, impersonation of an officer and several others. 

Whitsett, who first started back in 2007, said that scam calls are something the sheriff’s office has dealt with for a long time.

“I would say in the last five or six years is when it really has become kind of a condition of day to day life,” Whitsett said. “We get calls about telephone based fraud every day, every week, all year long, and that’s been the case for several years now.”

Whitsett said that so far no one has been scammed by this call, but other times residents haven’t been as lucky.

“We’ve had cases where subjects in our county have lost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Whitsett said. “That was within the last year.”

According to Whitsett, older and vulnerable people are often the targets of these scam calls in the county.

“It’s infuriating to see these people being taken advantage of in this way,” Whitsett said. “And it happens in our county, tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars every year get taken from people in these ways, that can’t be recovered.”

Whitsett said the best way to combat the rise in scam calls is through prevention and the spread of awareness.

“We have to try to prevent it through education, and we do that with our community by trying to let them know frequently, ‘Hey, this is still happening. Hey here’s a new form of fraud and theft and coercion,’” Whitsett said. ”We try to build our social media audience to keep everyone updated and build a positive relationship with our community.”

The best thing you can do is to stay informed, but even so scam calls can’t be prevented. Whitsett advises anyone who receives a call like this to not engage and call KITTCOM.

“If somebody claims to be a law enforcement officer in Kittitas County, and they demand money from you, they’re lying,” Whitsett said. “If you have any other reason to doubt who you’re actually talking to, you can always call KITTCOM and be put in contact with us.”

You can report scam calls to KITTCOM who can be contacted through (509) 925-8534.