Scammers posing as Bellingham Police Chief and command staff

Con artists have been posing as police, calling people and demanding money over missed jury summons.

Police in Bellingham are warning about a phone scam with a twist.  Someone is calling people in several different counties, pretending to be the Bellingham Chief of Police and other members of his command staff.

Most of the time, detectives say the caller tells the person on the other end of the line that he's calling from the Bellingham Police Department, because they owe money for missing a jury summons.

Chief of Police Clifford Cook's name has been used, and so has Lieutenant Mike Johnston's.

"They're using my name, which I don't appreciate, and their using the chief's name, which we don't appreciate, to try to legitimize their scam, " said Johnston.   

The scammer has not yet been caught, but did make a mistake recently when he called a retired border patrol agent with 34 years of law enforcement experience.  

"I walked in while my wife was talking to this individual on the phone, and I started listening to the questions he was asking, and it became quite apparent to me that we're dealing with a scam artist," said Miller.

Before he retired, Miller worked very closely with the Bellingham Police Department.  He also lived right down the street from Lieutenant Johnston.

So when the scammer said he was Lieutenant Johnston, Miller knew he was lying.

"I said can you spell that for me," Miller said.  "Mike and I have known each other for years.  The accent and everything else told me right away that wasn't Mike."

Miller hung up before the scammer asked for money, but he knew the  conversation was headed in that direction.

Then he called Johnston and alerted him to what happened.

Johnston called the number Miller and several others got off their Caller ID, but all he got was a voicemail greeting, from someone once again claiming to be the Bellingham Police Department.

Police say most of the calls appear to be coming from 360-350-5233.  KING 5 called the number and got the same recorded voicemail message.

Police are urging people to keep their guards up.

"We want people to know that no police officer anywhere is going to be calling you asking for money," said Johnston.

He said the number of reports from people who received the call have been steadily climbing throughout the week.  Fortunately, no one so far has actually given money to the scammer.

Copyright 2016 KING


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