A bogus police report caused the Delta Police Department to lose valuable time and resources Sept. 5 — the result, the police said Tuesday, of a jilted scammer trying to settle the score or possibly even bolster the scam by making good on threats to have law enforcement arrest the victim.
Officers were summoned to 1575 Road that afternoon on reports of a domestic assault. They found the homeowner outside, going on about her day, with no threat on the property.
The resident explained she had received a call from someone claiming to be with the Social Security Administration, who threatened her with police action if she did not pay up, DPD spokeswoman Jamie Head said. The woman was wise to this common scam, however, and got off the phone.
“She didn’t think anything of it. She was just going on about her normal, everyday activities when our officers showed up,” Head said.
All was well at the home, but the resources expended on the bogus call could have been applied elsewhere. For the type of call that came in, the DPD sends more than one officer, for safety reasons. Instead of those officers being on the street or available for legitimate calls, their time was tied up in ensuring there was no crime or emergency at the 1575 Road home, and in writing the subsequent reports required to document all police responses.
“When a report comes in claiming there is an act of violence, more than one officer is going to respond to that call. We don’t just send one officer. For officer safety, public safety and the safety of people in that home, we sent multiple officers that could have been doing other things,” Head said.
“This is an isolated incident. We have not had any other calls come in with such a claim. We think it was pretty much an isolated claim,” she added.
“We hope that this is not becoming a trend for scammers, because this is a huge and flagrant waste of our resources. We definitely have better things to do than respond to people’s houses based on what some would-be identity thief is calling in. Our citizens shouldn’t have to deal with this.”
The police do not want people to think, however, that they should not call for help when they need it. Also, police must respond when they are called, whether the report is false or legitimate.
“When we get a call, we have to respond. But we hope that there are not these kinds of calls coming in,” Head said. “ … We have assaults taking place. We have drugs on our streets, things we need to be investigating and taking care of.”
In keeping with the practice of many scammers, the person who caused police to be sent to a non-existent crime spoofed a legitimate phone number, making him or her extremely difficult to track. If the person is located, he or she could be charged with false reporting and potentially on the hook for costs associated with the response.
The Delta Police Department does not want to overstate the prevalence of bogus calls made in response to scammers being rebuffed; Head reminded the public the recent incident was an isolated one and she reiterated that the police will respond when they are paged out.
People who receive scam calls do not, however, need to inform the local police with the expectation that they, too, will have police respond to their homes because of a false report made against them, the DPD also said. That would greatly increase call loads.
People who receive calls from people — or automated messages — informing them that they owe money to Social Security, or calls of a similar nature, should hang up immediately. Do not provide the caller with any personal or financial information. Do not engage the caller. Do not, under any circumstances, send money or gift cards in response to such calls.
Those who are defrauded or suspect they might have been a victim of identity theft as the result of providing personal information to a scam caller can file reports with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s ID Theft and Fraud Hotline at 1-855-443-3489, or the U.S. Inspector General’s hotline at 800-269-0271.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer.