DEA warns of ‘alarming’ increase of scam calls in Utah

Local (Utah/State News)
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SALT LAKE COUNTY (ABC4 News) – Local authorities are issuing a warning after they said a nationwide scam has hit Utah.

The DEA said it believes thousands of calls have been made on Thursday and scammers seem to be focusing on the Salt Lake area.

In a press release, Melodie Rydalch with the U.S. Attorney’s Office said the scammers are using a spoof (fake) DEA telephone number.

“DEA agents — or any law enforcement officer – will never call doctors or members of the public to demand money or any other form of payment to avoid an arrest, prosecution, or prison sentence,” said Rydalch said in the statement. “They will never request personal or sensitive information over the phone.”  

Notification of a legitimate investigation or legal action is made via official letter or in person.

In March, the Drug Enforcement Administration urged the public to be cautious of telephone calls from criminals posing as DEA or other law enforcement personnel threatening arrest and prosecution for supposed violations of federal drug laws or involvement in drug-trafficking activities.

“DEA continues to receive reports from practitioners and the general public, alike, indicating that they have received calls threatening legal action if an exorbitant fine is not paid immediately over the phone,” stated a press release issued by the DEA. “The callers typically identify themselves as DEA personnel and instruct their victims to pay the ‘fine’ via wire transfer to avoid arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment.”

The reported scam tactics are continually changing, but often share many of the following characteristics:

  • Callers use fake names and badge numbers or, alternatively, names of well-known DEA senior officials.
  • The tone of calls is urgent and aggressive; callers refuse to speak or leave a message with anyone other than the person for whom they are calling.
  • Callers threaten arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment, and in the case of medical practitioners, revocation of their DEA numbers.
  • Callers demand thousands of dollars via wire transfer or, in some instances, in the form of untraceable gift cards taken over the phone.
  • Callers falsify the number on caller ID to appear as a legitimate DEA phone number.
  • Callers will often ask for personal information, such as social security number or date of birth.
  • When calling a medical practitioner, callers often reference National Provider Identifier numbers and/or state license numbers. They also might claim that patients are making accusations against the practitioner.

Impersonating a federal agent is a violation of federal law.

Anyone receiving a telephone call from a person purporting to be a DEA special agent or other law enforcement official seeking money should refuse the demand and report the threat using the online form or by calling 877-792-2873. Reporting scam calls will greatly assist DEA in investigating and stopping this criminal activity. Any urgent concerns or questions, including inquiring about legitimate investigations, should be directed to the local DEA field division.

To report scam activity online, visit the DEA Diversion on line reporting page

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