Authorities warn residents against several phone scams

Phone scam victim shares his story

Phone Scam Alert in Santa Barbara County

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department is warning residents about different phone scams hitting communities in the Central Coast recently.

There appears to be an uptick in phone scams in the past several days. Greg Johnson says when he picked up the phone Monday morning he never thought the person on the other line would be trying to scam him. 

He says around 9:00 in the morning he received a call from an '805' number. 

The person on the other line indicating they were with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office and said that his wife had failed to appear for jury duty. 

The call lasted for about 15 minutes says, Johnson.

The Sheriff's Office says the caller offers to resolve the warrant if the resident purchases a $2,000 pre-paid credit card and provides that card number on a follow-up call.

"Do not be fooled by your caller identification, even if it appears that number is coming from the Sheriff's Office or an 805 area code. Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information," said the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office.

The Sheriff's Office reminds the public the agency never calls residents to notify them of a warrant nor to take any payments of any kind over the phone.

"Virtual kidnapping" scams are also on the rise. Authorities say the caller pretends to be from a criminal organization or corrupt law enforcement holding a loved one hostage until ransom is paid. The caller at times uses an accomplice to make the threat seem more realistic such as a young woman screaming for help in the background during the call to convince the victim their daughter has been kidnapped.

To report phone scams, call the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP or visit

If you have any questions about whether a ransom demand is a scheme or a legitimate kidnapping, contact the FBI or your nearest law enforcement agency immediately. Report virtual kidnappings to the FBI Los Angeles Office at 310-477-6565, or submit an anonymous tip online at

Reporter Amanda Valdes will have a full report tonight at 5:00 and 6:00. Check back later for additional content and information.


To avoid becoming a victim, look for these possible scam indicators:

  • Callers go to great lengths to keep you on the phone, insisting you remain on the line.
  • Calls do not come from the victim’s phone.
  • Callers try to prevent you from contacting the “kidnapped” victim.
  • Multiple successive phone calls.
  • Incoming calls made from an outside area code.
  • Demands for ransom money to be paid via wire transfer, not in person.



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