Letters to the Editor: Don't fall for phone scam

Letters to the Editor: Don't fall for phone scam

Letters to the Editor

On Tuesday I received a message on our home machine from a “Deputy Mike Crawford” of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, asking me to return his call as soon as possible. With my husband at a dinner meeting, I was looking forward to an evening of having the house, the fridge and the remote to myself – watching baseball (or not), ironing, or not, cooking, or not. Heaven! But I didn’t want the message hanging over my head, so I returned the call.

Deputy Crawford confirmed my middle initial, recited our street address, and sounded every bit like an Andy Griffith deputy. Polite, friendly, professional.

Then he told me there was a bench warrant out for my arrest for a failure to appear at a court date. He said they caught me on camera on Buena Vista Avenue, exceeding the speed limit by 13 m.p.h. He claimed they mailed a citation on September 15 for an August offense. I never received anything and asked if he could send a copy. He said that he wanted to straighten it out while he had me on the phone to avoid the department sending an officer out.

I said, “Deputy, you seem like an honest guy and between you and me, I do go a little faster than I should now and then so it’s possible a camera caught me, but with all the scams these days I really want to confirm your identity before I give you any information over the phone. I’ll call you back."

So I hung up and called the Alameda Police Department's non-emergency number. Their dispatcher said she thought it was fishy but that I should call the sheriff’s department and gave me their number. I called and spoke with another friendly (though slightly condescending) young woman.

“Ma'am,” she said, “He’s a bad guy. Hang up right away if he calls back.” (She sounded like she was lecturing her 87-year-old demented grandma.) She also told me that these guys have gotten so sophisticated that they’re using the real names of sheriff’s department personnel, so if you call and ask if a “Mike Crawford” works there, the answer would be yes.

I learned a lesson without getting snared and only lost a little pride. A friend’s friend, also an Alamedan, didn’t hang up and followed “Mike’s” instructions to go to a 7-Eleven, bought a debit gift card, and then recite the card code to him to pay her “citation.” She lost $300. Another friend’s mother lost a much larger sum trying to bail a son out of a DUI up near the Oregon border. I might have done the same thing if I thought I was rescuing a daughter instead of settling a traffic fine.

The sad part for me is that neither APD nor the sheriff’s department seemed interested in getting any information from me to catch the guy. Maybe it’s untraceable.

But I can spread the word. Please forward as you see fit.

Alice Lewis