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Scammers are pretending to be police over the phone; Here's what to do if you get a call

"You see it a lot this time of year," Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Lt. Ryan Neville said.

PHOENIX — Fake police scams are on the rise this time of year, and law enforcement officials say it's easy to be taken by their phony "warrant" scams.

Here's how a 12 News reporter spotted one and what happened when he recorded the call.

It started with a voicemail on my wife's phone from a "Sgt. Dan Kelly," wanting to "make initial contact." What stood out was that "Sgt. Kelly" never said what agency he was with or what the call was about or who he wanted to speak to. 

So, instead, I called him back from another phone number and told him that I had missed his call. Without missing a beat, "Sgt. Kelly" said he was glad I called back because he needed to talk to me about some outstanding warrants for missing jury duty. 

  • And that was the first red flag: the scammer had no idea who he had called, or who was calling him.

"I know that you're not a criminal, and I'm not trying to treat you like one," he said. 

"Sgt. Kelly" continually tried to get me to confirm my name, but kept calling me "Everett Rivers." It's pretty easy for police to look up phone numbers, especially if they've already called them looking for someone. And remember, he never called me to begin with; he called my wife. 

He did, however, try repeatedly to get me to say my name clearly into the phone. The real sheriff's office would later guess that he might be recording it for some purpose. 

  • That was the second red flag: using the wrong names

When I asked if there was a way to take care of these supposed warrants, "Sgt. Kelly" said I'd have to pay a fine but that he was working to get me reimbursed.

  • That, of course, was the third red flag: cops will never ask you for money either on the phone or in person. And there's certainly never a reimbursement for a court-ordered fine. 

When I pressed "Sgt. Kelly" for more information about my "case," he kicked the performance into overdrive. He claimed he was putting me on hold, then acted out a one-sided phone call with someone in "the administration" to get my file complete with pauses and small talk. 

When I asked for the case numbers, he read out two case numbers that were almost formatted the way Maricopa County Superior Court does. But not quite. 

Eventually, "Sgt. Kelly" got tired of my questions and hung up. I've tried calling back, but he's never answered. 

"You see it a lot this time of year," Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Lt. Ryan Neville said.

Neville said that while the calls increase around the holidays, so has the sophistication of the scammers. 

"Not only are they very brazen in going out and saying they're affiliated with us," Neville said, "but they'll even track down our information from our own records and impersonate us."

They're working complete with badge numbers, Neville said. So that when you call the department to verify that officer is real and you'll get a real "yes."

Neville said a cop will never call you because of missed jury duty or any outstanding warrant. 

Neville said you can always call a police department and verify not only that the officer is real but that what they want is real too. 

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