MALIBU—The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Information Bureau (SIB) issued an advisory, which warns Malibu residents of a deceptive phone scam in which the caller(s) impersonate Sheriff’s Department personnel in an attempt to fraudulently swindle money from the victims.

The SIB said in the advisory, “In an effort to protect our local residents from becoming a victim, the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station is providing this public service message about an ongoing telephone scam. With an increasing amount of fraud that reaches people across the country, phone scammers are using the threat of arrest warrants to pressure people into paying hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars.”

The scam is carried out with a high level of sophistication. The advisory explains that the scammers can manipulate their caller ID’s, giving them local area codes, and sometimes the number appears as if it were coming from a sheriff’s station or 911.

The SIB explains a method a scammer might use to dupe his/her victims. For example, the caller may advise the victim that there is a warrant from a traffic violation, missed jury duty, failure to pay full income tax requirements to the Internal Revenue Service, or some other minor infraction.

The SIB further explains, “The scammer tells the potential victim that their options are either to surrender themselves to the Sheriff’s Department for arrest or that they may pay a ‘reduced’ payment of the fine to adjudicate the warrant.”

In addition to the technical intricacy of the scam, what frustrates law enforcement is the fact that the scam artists leave no trace and are often calling from places well outside the jurisdiction in which the crime occurred.

The scammers use pre-paid phones and only accept prepaid cash cards or request the funds be funneled through an encrypted bank account in an unknown location, according to the advisory.

Commanding Officer of the Malibu/Los Hills Sheriff’s Station, Captain Patrick Davoren, said that he trusts area residents “to be savvy enough to not fall for this scam.” He reinforces that, “The Sheriff’s Department will never ask for payment over the phone or offer to negotiate an outstanding warrant for a reduced payment, in lieu of arrest.”

Anyone who has been a victim of this scam, or who receives such a call, is encouraged to take down as much information as possible, such as a name and call back number, without giving any of their personal information away. They should immediately contact their local law enforcement agency.