Law enforcement paying attention to “sex offender” scams
By Sandy . . . For years telephone scams targeting persons registered on their states’ sexual offender lists have plagued registrants in half, possibly more, of our states. NARSOL first was alerted to this in 2018 and in turn did everything we could to get the word out. We posted multiple pieces over several years and featured the topic in a special, three-hour NARSOL in Action teleconference.
In more recent years, other issues have pushed their way to the forefront, and while we knew the scams were persisting, it was just one more thing among a host of others.
Recently the chatter surrounding these telephone scams has increased, drawing our attention once more to them, and this time with a distinctive twist. Most of the focus of today’s media reports is on law enforcement’s concern and warnings over the scams. While much of their interest may be driven by the fact that scam artists are impersonating police officers, the end result is the same: law enforcement seems finally to be paying attention. At the beginning and for several years, anecdotal reports almost invariably said that officers were anywhere from indifferent to hostile when registrants tried to file complaints or report an incident. Media reports were infrequent and seldom mentioned law enforcement.
That is no longer the case. Many of today’s scam warnings are media pieces reporting on law enforcement’s concern, and in many cases, warnings coming directly from law enforcement entities themselves, including some from state agencies. The Nevada government web site bears a warning on its state police page. The Wisconsin DOC also features a warning on their website, and a most eye-catching and comprehensive alert was posted by the Delaware State Police. In Colorado, the City of Louisville posted on its official website a scam warning issues by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
In Oklahoma, the Creek County sheriff’s office could not bring themselves to identify registrants as the target of the scams, but they posted a warning on their website that clearly fits the pattern. The King County, Washington, Sheriff’s Office alerted registrants to the scam, and in Georgia, the DeKalb sheriff’s website featured a very prominent and thorough scam warning.
There are undoubtedly more states where law enforcement and government entities have issued alerts and warnings on their websites, and in addition to this, there are a host of media articles featuring these scam alerts. With headers such as, “Phone scam targets people on Delaware’s sex offender registry,” “Oakland County Sheriff’s Office [Michigan] warns residents not to fall for latest sex offender scam,” and “Deputies [Anderson County, South Carolina] warn of scam targeting residents on sex offender registry,” it is clear that attitudes of law enforcement, state officials, and the media have changed in the five or more years that these vicious scams were first set in place and used to attack and defraud a population terrified of setting one foot wrong for fear of being locked up.
The next step will be serious attempts to identify and arrest those behind the scams, which, given today’s technology, may prove very difficult if not virtually impossible; it is conceivable some of them are in another country. The next best thing is for every registrant to be made aware and be on guard. A person within our movement gave this advice to anyone who receives such a phone call and is tempted to listen and engage with the caller: “Shut up and hang up.”
That will work every time.