This week is national consumer protection week, and a good time to relate a recent story about a scam interrupted. A young man who lives around the corner in my neighborhood received a telephone message from someone claiming to be Lt. Goblet of the Lincoln Police Department. The message said that it was vital that he return the call, regarding an unspecified urgent issue. The teenager, however, is the son of a deputy sheriff and recognized that the call was fishy. There is nobody named Goblet or anything remotely similar in area law enforcement, and LPD hasn't had any lieutenants since the rank was eliminated 15 years ago.
After reading the initial Incident Report, I subscribed to the case number, so I would stay informed about the case. This is a very nice feature in our police records management system. You can subscribe to a case number, and whenever a fresh report is created you automatically receive an email including a hyperlink to the new report. You can also subscribe to a name or to an address. Over the ensuing couple of weeks, the investigating officer submitted three additional reports concerning his follow up efforts to track down the owner of the phone from which the call originated.
"Lt. Goblet" called from a 402 area code number. When the records were subpoenaed, however, the number proved to be a burner cell phone with the billing address listed as a post office box in Irvine, CA. It will be impossible to trace this down. In this case, our caller was a con artist looking for a mark in Lincoln, using a number with a local area code in order to build confidence in the call's legitimacy. The "urgent issue" was undoubtedly going to be some attempt to convince our victim that he should send money to avoid some embarrassing revelation, or something along these lines.
You might make a thousand calls like this before you eventually hit one victim who falls for the scam. Cons like this are not uncommon, and every year we will have a few victims who are taken in. On a few past occasions, the con artists have used my name, working on the angle that the victim would recognize the name of their local police chief. At any rate, nice job by the deputy's son in recognizing the scamn and contacting the police. Officer Tu Tran actually returned the call to the number captured on the victim's caller ID, and got a rather colorful earful from the make believe lieutenant.