Crime Watch

Update on Local IRS Phone Scam

The Columbia County Sheriff's Office has been receiving an increasing number of reports regarding bogus telephone call scams from persons claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In these phone calls, the individuals claim you owe the IRS money, and use scare tactics to force people to send in money that they don't really owe to the IRS. The Columbia County Sheriff's Office is unable to do much with regard to these reports, as these calls have been coming from a foreign country.

On October 6th, CNN news reported that police in India have arrested 70 people on suspicion of posing as IRS agents to steal cash from US citizens. Another 630 people are also under investigation by Indian authorities suspected of also being involved in this extortion scam.

Workers at nine call centers allegedly impersonated IRS agents during calls to the US. The victims were told they owed back taxes and would risk arrest if they hung up. The call center workers had been trained to speak with an American accent. The call centers were reportedly making as much at $150,000.00 a day for up to a year before being discovered. Money would be transferred by victims for the scheme to US bank accounts before being sent to India.

Indian authorities advised that they had a mole inside the organization before the arrests were made, but the call center owners escaped. They suspect there are accomplices in the US, but as yet have not made contact with American law enforcement officials. The mechanics of the operation appears very similar to those of an IRS impersonation scam that US authorities say swindled victims out of more that $15 million dollars between 2013 and 2015. In that case, investigators suspected the bogus calls were coming from India. The suspects stole identities to make it appear they were IRS agents in Washington. More recently, Treasury Department investigators filed criminal complaints in the US against five individuals in three states, accusing them of fleecing nearly $2 million dollars from more than 1,500 victims as part of a scheme to impersonate IRS agents.

It's important to remember that if the real IRS needs to contact you they will do so via mail, never over the phone. (Information for this report courtesy of CNN Headline News)

Facebook scam hits Dayton

On June 29th a Dayton resident reported that he was the victim of a scam over Facebook. The victim reported that he had received a message from a friend on Facebook asking for information. He provided his name and address before realizing that it was a fake Facebook page, assuming the identity of a Facebook friend, for the purpose of phishing information. Be very careful about information you provide over the Internet. Only provide personal information on secure websites, to people or businesses you know to be legitimate.

IRS Scam Hits Dayton

The Better Business Bureau of Eastern Washington has gotten many calls Monday about scam phone calls involving the IRS. We have received several reports here at the Columbia County Sheriff's Office as well.

It seems to pick up when people start filling out their taxes.

What generally happens is the scammers claiming to be the IRS call you and tell you that you owe them money and you better pay up. They can get pretty aggressive too and try to bully people into paying them. Some calls even threaten the issuance of arrest warrants.

But, if you know about these calls, you'll be better prepared to handle them.

Remember, the IRS will never first contact you by phone or email.

If you do get a call, the first thing you should do is take down as many details about the call as possible when you're on the phone. Don't give them any personal information. Then contact the IRS and report the call with the FTC or the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

You can find more details at the IRS website and the Federal Trade Commission website.

WSP Warns of Scam

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The pitch is friendly and convincing, designed to tug at your heart strings and your wallet. But it's all a scam. This recent one is using the Washington State Patrol name and an app to make it look legitimate.

Chris Norton has gotten calls from telemarketers before, but a recent one stood out.

"There was a man on the phone; he seemed like he wanted to be my pal right away," said Norton. "He was very friendly, maybe a little too friendly."

The caller peaked his interest, as he claimed to be from the Washington State Patrol Foundation, raising funds to honor fallen officers and fund a children's internet safety campaign.

"They're really touching on those sympathy points," said Norton.

State Patrol Sergeant Paul Cagle said since August, they've had more than 200 reports of scammers calling people pretending to be with the agency, and the number is only expected to increase.

"Of course, during the holidays it's a time for people to give a little bit this time of year," said Cagle.

As legitimate as the calls may seem, Cagle said there are some key differences between scammers and a representative of WSP or its union.

"They aren't going to employ hard-sale tactics and they're never going to ask for money, credit card information or really any financial information over the phone at all," said Cagle.

In Norton's case, his questions spooked the scammer and caused him to hang up. However, he fears the next potential victim won't be so fortunate.

"I can see where they are sending in their hooks, and I can see with someone who is an honorable person they would be even more inclined to give them money," said Norton.

In many of the cases, police said that phone numbers showing up on caller IDs are legitimate phone numbers and that scammers are doing this by using what they call spoofing apps. Their advice is don't let just the number itself fool you and no matter what, never give credit card or any personal information over the phone.


  • Things to remember about fraud and/or scams
    • If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
    • Reputable entities will not call you and ask to check your password and/or account number.
    • Reputable construction contractors will not ask for the money or part of the money "up front" and they will have a business / contractor's license to show you.
    • If someone is pressuring you to make a decision right then and there, tell them no and hang up.
    • If you receive an email or phone call telling you that your relative is in jail and needs to be bailed out immediately, they are not.
    • You do not have to pay a fee to receive a lottery/prize/jackpot/gift if you win one.
    • If someone offers to split a lottery/prize/jackpot/gift with you by sending it to you and you just have to write them a check for part of it so they get reimbursed, it is a scam.
    • If someone buys something from you, but "mistakenly" writes the check for more than the item they are buying and tells you to just write them a check for the difference, it is a scam.
    • Sadly, many, many, or the requests for assistance found on the internet are scams.
  • If in doubt, call the Sheriff's Office


Posted 10-22-13

The Columbia County Sheriff's Office received a report on October 19 of an apparent telephone scam. The reporting party advised she received a call that advised because she was over 60, she was being offered $3,000.00 in food saving certificates from the National Senior Assistance Program. The certificates could be redeemed at any grocery store. All they needed was some more information from the reporting party. She hung up without providing any information about herself. Further research on the Internet confirmed this is a telephone scam aimed at harvesting your personal information for the purposes of identity theft. The Columbia County Sheriff's Office warns that any Columbia County resident receiving such a phone call should hang up immediately and notify the Columbia County Sheriff's Office at 509-382-2518

Jury Duty Scam Alert

Jury Scam Public Service Announcement Poster

We greatly value our citizens willing to serve on jury duty and are very concerned that you might become victims of a scam artist out to take your money, and using the name of the court to do so.

Please be aware that citizens in several Washington Counties as well as around the country have lost large sums of money. Here is how it usually happens: an individual calls or emails and claims that you have missed jury duty. They indicate, as a result, a warrant has been issued for your arrest and/or that the Sheriff is en route to arrest you, and demand payment, a credit card number, or a social security number for failure to appear for jury duty. Columbia County Courts will never ask for payment over the phone or by email. Court officials will also never ask for you to purchase a pre-paid card, provide cash or a check to pay for failure to appear for jury duty.

Never give out personal information by phone or email. Please report any suspicious activity of this kind to your Columbia County law enforcement agency.

If you have questions about jury duty or a court appearance, please call Columbia County Superior Court at (509) 382-4321 or Columbia County District/Municipal Court at (509) 382-4812.

Check Scam Reported

The Columbia County Sheriff's Office has been made aware of a check cashing scam in our area. The letter advises the recipient that they have won $250,000.00 in a lottery, and that the enclosed check for $3,950.00 is meant to be deposited into the recipient's bank account to pay for the processing fee. When the check is deposited, the bank account is emptied. The recipient of this letter never entered any sweepstakes or lottery. The Sheriff's Office warns if you receive such a letter and check, to ignore it and discard them. Should you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Columbia County Sheriff's Office at 509-382-2518.

Be On The Lookout for Suspicious Persons

Posted 01-02-15

The Sheriff's Office received a report of a suspicious female subject who contacted a residence here in Dayton requesting to look at their filtration system. This could possibly be a ruse in order to gain access to the interior of your house to check the layout to aid in burglary at a later date. Just a reminded that you don't have to let anyone into your residence if you don't feel comfortable about it. As always, should you thing something or someone is suspicious, please contact the Sheriff's Office as it is happening so a deputy can respond to investigate.

Are You Helping Crooks with Burglary in Mind?

Posted 08-12-14

The following is from the Scambusters Newsletter #595, May 7th, 2014 and contains some good tips that are worth sharing...

Luring You Away - Thieves use many tricks to lure you away from your home. Here are just a few: * Claiming to be a utility employee or contractor who wants to show you an area outside where he's about to start work.

* Posing as a neighbor or passerby who just spotted a problem on your roof or the exterior of the building that they want to point out to you.

* Pretending to be the owner of a lost pet, who asks you to come and help them search nearby for it.

Crooks may disconnect power lines, send out phony invitations to events or even advertise opportunities on social media or online classified ad sites (such as events or jobs) that will get you away from home.

Obviously, you should be on your guard for these ruses and avoid leaving the home unguarded if at all possible. If you do have to leave the house, even for a few minutes, lock all doors, close all windows and, if it's dark, switch on some lights. Checking If Anyone's Home - Of course, even if a crook lures you away from your home, he or she can't be sure someone else isn't inside. If they're just scoping out potential burglary targets, they want to know if a house is occupied or if the owners are out or away. So, it's important not to give the game away by leaving signs your home is unoccupied. Here are some ways you can conceal your absence and avoid alerting crooks: * Don't leave address details in your car, especially if it's in a long-term parking lot. This applies not just to documents but even to a GPS, if you have one. Don't enter your home address on it.

* When you're going to be out for a short while, leave or switch the radio on, preferably to a talk station.

* Keep your garage door closed and garage windows covered so burglars can't check for vehicles.

* Beware of solicitors - at your door or on the phone - wanting to make a future appointment, especially if they ask when you're going to be home.

* Don't leave voice mail messages that say you're away, or when you'll be back. Messages should be neutral, simply asking callers: "Please leave a message after the beep." Going Away? - If you're going on vacation or will be away for more than a few days: * Don't discuss travel plans on social media sites. * Arrange for your lawn to be mowed and front yard to be kept tidy if you're going to be away more than a week.

* During the winter, ask a neighbor to drive on and off your driveway when there's snow on the ground, so tracks are visible to the would-be burglar.

* Ask a neighbor to clear any litter they see around your home. Crooks have been known to drop trash on the driveways and doorsteps and then check to see if it's been cleared.

* Finally, beware of publishing home address details in funeral or memorial service notices. They signal when the house will be vacant.

Bogus IRS Calls Attempt to Obtain Personal Information

Posted 07-29-14

Several residents of Columbia County have reported receiving calls from persons claiming to represent the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The callers request personal information, and warn that if the information is not provided there will be a warrant issued for their arrest. These calls are a scam. The IRS does not operate in this fashion. The callers are no doubt identity thieves who are attempting to obtain personal information through coercion and fear. Persons receiving these calls should hang up without providing any information, and notify your local Internal Revenue Service Office.

Craigs List Inquiry Results in Residential Burglary

Posted 06-24-14

This incident occurred recently in a neighboring jurisdiction. An unsuspecting victim advertised his vehicle for sale on Craig's List that resulted in a male and female suspect arriving at the victim's residence to look at the vehicle and take it for a test drive. The male suspect and the victim went for a test drive. The male suspect wore a Bluetooth telephone device in his ear throughout the test drive. The female suspect waited outside the victim's residence during the test drive. Upon their return to the residence from the test drive, the male suspect advised the victim they would go to an ATM machine and return with cash for the vehicle. The male and female suspect then left. The victim later discovered that the female subject had entered the unlocked residence to commit the burglary. It appears that the female subject was actively monitoring the male subject through the Bluetooth device he was wearing during the "test drive."

Although unique, this incident illustrates some points for you to consider in situations like this:

  1. Don't meet at your residence. Meet somewhere like a parking lot or on a nearby street away from your residence.
  2. Never leave your house unattended and unlocked.

Fake Power Bill Phone Call Scam Reported

Posted 04-08-14

The Sheriff's Office has received a report of an attempted telephone scam involving an alleged power bill. The reporting party received a call from 1-818-666-7190. The subject identified himself as Stanley Walls, with the power company. He advised the intended victim that he owed $987.00 in delinquent power bills, and

that his power was going to be cut off if he did not pay it today. Walls

advised that they wanted payment in the form of a Wal-Mart or Walgreens cash

card. After the call was ended, the reporting party called Pacific Power and confirmed this was not them. This is not how they do business. If you receive a call of this nature, do not provide any information to the calling party. Hang up. 

Fake Identity Theft Phone Calls Circulating

Posted 03-04-14

The Sheriff's Office had been advised of a phony identity theft phone call scam that is circulating around Dayton. The phone originates from the 714 area code. A female subject with a marked Asian accent who identifies herself as "Maria" calling from ID Crime Watch notifies the recipient of an alleged identity theft, and wants to confirm personal information. DO NOT PROVIDE YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION TO ANYONE OVER THE PHONE. Should you receive such a phone call, the best thing to do is hang up immediately without providing any information.

Fake Identity Theft Phone Calls Circulating

Posted 03-04-14

The Sheriff's Office had been advised of a phony identity theft phone call scam that is circulating around Dayton. The phone originates from the 714 area code. A female subject with a marked Asian accent who identifies herself as "Maria" calling from ID Crime Watch notifies the recipient of an alleged identity theft, and wants to confirm personal information. DO NOT PROVIDE YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION TO ANYONE OVER THE PHONE.  Should you receive such a phone call, the best thing to do is hang up immediately without providing any information.

Bogus Death Notification Leads to Infected Website

Posted 02-20-14

The Sheriff's Office has been made aware of a new Internet phishing scam in which people receive an email that appears to be a death notification. The email is supposedly from a company named Hubbell. The email expressed their sympathy in the recent loss of a loved one, and provides a date and time where the services will take place. The email provides a link, and requests that the recipient follow the link to obtain a funeral invitation. Clicking on the link takes you to an infected website where your information can be stolen. The Sheriff's Office warns anyone who receives such an email to delete it. Do not click on any links within the email.

Bogus Power Bills Hitting Local Email

Posted 01-27-14

The Columbia County Sheriff's Office is warning the public about a new email scam that is made to look like a power bill. PGE reports that several customers have reported a scam email scheme. The email is formatted to look like a real power bill. The power bills usually contain a link for you to go to so that you can pay the power bill on line. If you use a debit or credit card, you will loose the money, and more than likely open yourself up to identity theft and depletion of your account. Do not open these emails. Ignore and delete them.

Jamaican Telephone Scam Hits Dayton

Posted 01-24-14

The Columbia County Sheriff's Office is investigating a telephone pyramid scam focusing on the elderly. The calls originate from Jamaica with an area code of 876. The caller convinces the victim that they are friends that they know and need money. The victim is persuaded to send cash in the mail to another victim in another state, who forwards their money along with the previous victim's money to yet another person. After going through several people, the cash amount is rather substantial. It is then forwarded to Jamaica when it hits the end of the pyramid. Columbia County residents are warned that if they receive any phone calls from area code 876, inquiring about sending money in the mail, to hang up on the caller and notify the Columbia County Sheriff's Office immediately at 509-382-2518.

Court Fraud Email Making The Rounds

Posted 01-16-14

A report has been received by the Sheriff's Office of an email fraud that they received recently. An email was received that appears to be an official hearing notice sent by the court. It is formatted in such a way as to appear to be a subpoena to appear in court. The email has an attached "subpoena" to open. The body of the email threatens court action if the attachment is not opened and responded to. The Sheriff's Office warns that this is not how the courts operate. If you receive such an email, you should verify its authenticity by contacting the court before opening any attachments or responding to any requests.

Sheriff Urges Car Prowl Victims to Report Missing Property

Posted 12-10-13

DAYTON – The Columbia County Sheriff's Office is asking all citizens who are still missing property from recent, unreported car prowls to call (509) 382-2518 and make a formal report.

Columbia County Sheriff's Office deputies arrested three Dayton men on Saturday, November 30, whom they believe may be linked to a rash of car prowls in Dayton in November. These suspects are currently incarcerated and awaiting trial. A cache of property was recovered by deputies, some of which has yet to be linked with victims.

Between September 1 and the end of November, Dayton saw over 45 car prowls – a time period last year which only saw seven reports of the same crime. Although several suspects are in custody, Sheriff Rocky Miller continues to urge citizens to take basic precautions against car prowls.

Lock your vehicle anytime you are going to leave it unattended, no matter how long. Store valuables out of sight if you must leave them in the vehicle. Park in lighted areas. And call 911 immediately to report any suspicious activity.

Subject Arrested Monday May be Connected to Threat that Delayed Dayton School Last Week

Posted 12-04-13 

DAYTON – Deputies from the Columbia County Sheriff's Office have arrested a juvenile male they believe is connected with the threatening note that delayed Dayton schools last Monday for two hours.

The sheriff's office has partnered with the Dayton School District in this investigation. The subject was arrested Monday. Formal charges are still pending.

No further information is available to release at this time as the subject is a juvenile and the case is still under active investigation.

Dayton schools were delayed for two hours on Monday, November 25, after a school employee found a threatening note at the school in the early morning hours. Deputies and local fire fighters secured the district buildings and did not find anything suspicious.

Vehicle Prowl Suspects Arrested

Posted 12-02-13

DAYTON – Columbia County Sheriff's Office deputies arrested three Dayton men on Saturday whom they believe may be linked to the rash of car prowls in Dayton over the last few weeks. Thirty-three-year-old Carlos Arroyo is being held pending a bond hearing on charges of possession of stolen property 2nd degree and possession of drug paraphernalia. Twenty-six-year-old Ryan Timmons is being held, pending a preliminary hearing, for possession of methamphetamine, four counts of vehicle prowl 2nd degree, and possession of stolen property 3rd degree. Twenty-five-year-old Kenneth Toliver is being held, pending a bond hearing, for possession of stolen property 2nd degree, trafficking in stolen property 1st degree, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Following reports of over 25 car prowls in the month of November, deputies executed two search warrants late Saturday and located several items associated with the thefts. The arrests of Arroyo, Timmons and Toliver were made at that time. Between September 1 and the end of November, Dayton saw over 45 car prowls – a time period last year which only saw seven reports of the same crime.

Sheriff Rocky Miller continues to urge citizens to take basic precautions against car prowls. Lock your vehicle anytime you are going to leave it unattended, no matter how long. Store valuables out of sight if you must leave them in the vehicle. Park in lighted areas. And call 911 immediately to report any suspicious activity.


Posted 11-08-13

Vehicle prowls (thefts from vehicles) are on the rise in Dayton. Since September 1st, the Columbia County Sheriff's Office has investigated 21 reported cases of stolen items from vehicles. You can avoid being a victim of vehicle prowl by following these few simple steps:

  • Vehicle prowl is a crime of opportunity. Never leave your car unlocked. The one common thread with all of the vehicle prowl reports was that the victim left their vehicle unlocked. If you leave your car unattended (even at the grocery store), lock the vehicle.
  • Don't leave valuables in your vehicle in plain view. Items such as purses, wallets, cell phones, lap top computers, MP3 players, even small amounts of change are targets for vehicle prowl. Make sure you take these items inside each evening, secure them in the trunk or glove box, or hide them so they are not readily seen from outside the vehicle.
  • NEVER LEAVE A FIREARM IN YOUR VEHICLE! Always secure firearms in your residence each evening.
  • When parking your vehicle at night, make sure it is in a well-lit area in your driveway, under your carport, or under a street light.
  • Report any suspicious persons or activity immediately, as it is happening, to the Columbia County Sheriff's Office at 382-2518.