Prosecutors warn against holiday scams |

Prosecutors warn against holiday scams

Adam Jensen

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – At least one South Shore resident has been bilked out of $5,000 after being caught up in a new twist on a familiar scam, according to an El Dorado County prosecutor.

South Lake Tahoe police have received several reports from people who have received a phone call from someone claiming to be member of the police department, El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, a law firm or a federal law enforcement agency, said Hans Uthe, assistant district attorney, in a Thursday email.

“They are told, very aggressively, that they or someone dear to them will be arrested shortly if they do not pay money for some claimed debt,” Uthe said. “If they bite, they are told to wire funds to a given location, which is typically offshore, like the Dominican Republic.”

If people get such a call they should check with local law enforcement before sending any money, according to the prosecutor.

“Law enforcement agencies do not arrest people for nonpayment of private debt, other than perhaps child support,” Uthe said. “If someone has sent money, they should call their bank right away to see if that can be reversed.”

Because the calls typically originate overseas, it is difficult for the money to be returned and for the people behind the scams to be caught, Uthe said. If caller ID indicates a call is coming from anywhere in North America, the prosecutor suggested people report the matter to local law enforcement in an effort to identify any suspects.

Also on Thursday, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto warned holiday shoppers about a scam known as “SMiShing,” where victims receive a text message, purportedly from their bank.

The message says the victim’s debit card has been locked and asks for a reply. Eventually the person sending the messages will ask for personal information like a debit card or a Social Security number.

Masto discouraged people from responding to any such text message and said they should call their banks if they have questions regarding an account.

“In addition to family fun and shopping outings with loved ones, it is also unfortunately the season for scams,” Masto said. “Criminals will take advantage of those with generous hearts and good will this holiday season. Nevadans should be cautious of fraud this time of year and make sure their purchases are made through legitimate businesses and that donations help legitimate organizations.”

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