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This is the city. This is a case for Sgt. Friday. Where is he when we need him?

Many people live here, and in the world at large. Not all of them are good. A few miscreants and malefactors lurk in the shadows, waiting to prey upon their fellow mortals. 

One such purveyor of misdeeds contacted me.

It was a Tuesday afternoon, a beautiful day with clear skies, warm sunshine and low humidity. I and my partners in non-crime were working the day shift, before we were working the night shift. I had just returned to the office after an editorial planning session/lunch that did not include doughnuts.

My name is Everson. I wear a tie, and I carry a notebook and a pen. A pen is mightier than a sword, but not as unforgiving as a .357. After I sat down at my desk, there was a call from a local number that I did not recognize. When I answered the call, there were several seconds of silence between my “Hello” and the sound of a male voice telling me to listen carefully. I was listening carefully.

There followed a warning that I was under investigation by the police for Social Security, because of “criminal activity.” I could not tell if the voice was live or recorded.

My first thought was to ignore the call altogether, but then I thought I probably should at least report the call to the authorities.

I went outside the building, but I could not find any DeLand police officers along the street or sidewalk. It was such a beautiful day — and I needed an excuse to enjoy it outside — that I walked over to the DeLand Police Department and asked the officer at the desk if I could speak with an officer or a detective. He kindly told me he would talk with me.

After he came around from behind the glass window separating the desk from the public, I explained to him what had prompted me to come. He listened and expressed relief that I had not promised or given any money to the caller.

I asked if he was aware of any rash of such calls of late. He said he knew of none, but that this type of scam — scaring people into thinking that they have to buy their way out of trouble with the law when they have done nothing wrong — is common. 

He called the number that showed up on my phone’s caller ID, and a young-sounding woman answered. She denied making any call to my number, after the policeman with whom I was talking identified himself. She did say she may have called my number accidentally, some 15 minutes or so earlier.

It is possible for scammers to “spoof” other people’s telephone numbers. The officer said he was aware of one such incident when a DeLand Police Department number was used.

The officer confirmed my suspicion that the anonymous caller was most likely trying to con me and anyone else into forking money that neither I nor anyone else can afford.

Further, the officer advised law-enforcement agencies do not make such calls.

“We don’t call you to tell you we’re coming to arrest you,” he said.

Moreover, since Social Security is a federal program, the lead investigating agency in a case of criminal activity involving old-age or disability pensions would be the FBI, not a local police department.

I pass along this caution to beware of those who would take your money from you. Don’t give them the time of day — let alone your bank information or your Social Security or driver’s license number. Hang up if you get such a call. Only you can prevent yourself from becoming a victim of someone else’s nefarious counterfeit of work.

The foregoing is a true story — no fake news.

— al@beacononlinenews.com


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