Clark County’s emergency response agency is warning the public about a confusing phone scam that tricks people into thinking they’ll be arrested unless they send money to a 911 call center.
First, the victims get a call or a message from a fake emergency dispatch, and 911 shows up as the caller’s number on caller ID. They are told that if they don’t respond or send money within half an hour, they’ll be arrested.
Then, when the victims return the calls, they’re routed to an actual 911 call center, tying up phone lines for people in real emergencies. Using a fraudulent phone number — a practice known as caller ID spoofing — can land the offender with a $10,000 fine for each call made with the number, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency posted warnings about the scam Tuesday on its blog, Facebook, Twitter and nextdoor.com, a neighborhood-based social network. By the early afternoon, CRESA had already received several reports from local people who were targeted, said Eric Frank, the agency’s spokesman.
“From the data I had received, calls were coming in from individuals throughout the county, not just a certain neighborhood,” Frank said in an email to The Columbian. “We want individuals to be aware of the scam, and that 911 would never call and ask for that type of personal information or mention you would be arrested.”
Over the last two weeks, the calls also have targeted people in Oregon.
Frank urges any victims of the scam to not return the calls unless they’re in an actual emergency. Instead, he encourages them to contact the Washington State Attorney General’s Office to file a complaint. The office can be reached at 360-753-6200, and complaint forms also are available online at atg.wa.gov/file-complaint.