Law enforcement tries to slam phone on fraud |

Law enforcement tries to slam phone on fraud

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune

A combined effort by a federal agency and state attorney general hopes to hang up on fraudulent telephone solicitors.

The Federal Trade Commission and Nevada Attorney General Brian Sandoval created Operation Phony Philanthropy, which will raise public awareness on non-legitimate calls that solicit money for charity.

Charitable causes include support for law enforcement or firefighters, veterans assistance and sick children, the Attorney General’s Office stated.

Douglas County authorities are aware of the problem. Sgt. Tim Minister, an investigator with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department at the lake, said the scam has been in the area but not for several years.

“In my experience it tends to move from one community to the next,” Minister said.

In the valley, the sheriff’s department receives about one complaint a year regarding the telemarketing scam, said Lt. Mike Biaggini, head of the investigation unit.

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Biaggini said he remembered one complaint about a caller who faked a law enforcement fund that would help the highway patrol. A non-specific highway patrol.

The most recent incident the lieutenant remembered was a telemarketer calling spouses of military people overseas, trying to get information such as a Social Security numbers in an attempt at fraud or impersonation.

Usually the calls center on phony law enforcement campaigns. People should be wary of organizations such as Firefighters’ Assistance Foundation and Police and Sheriff’s Support Fund, Sandoval’s office stated.

Biaggini didn’t remember any calls that falsely claimed to help organizations outside the law enforcement realm.

“I don’t recall us ever having a problem with ill children (calls),” Biaggini said. “That’s local enough that people know (solicitations are) legitimate.”

Tom Sargent, spokesman for Sandoval, cited two recent cases in Southern Nevada not having to do with law enforcement. One involved a woman who presented herself as a charity but had no proof. She collected about $400 and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor petty larceny, Sargent said.

The other case involved a Marilyn Monroe impersonator who attempted to raffle a car for a charity. The charity never existed and the impersonator got busted after receiving more than $10,000, Sargent said. She has yet to appear in court.

Sandoval’s office issued the alert this week in efforts to protect legitimate organizations and consumers.

“What we don’t want to have happen is people stop giving to charities because private donations are a lifeblood for many organizations,” Sargent said.

Currently, the Nevada Highway Patrol is the lone Nevada law enforcement agency to solicit legitimately by telephone. To report suspected fraud call 800-266-8688 or the FTC at 877-382-4357.