It's a crime that takes advantage of the best instincts of Northern Californians, preying on their sense of patriotism and generosity.
Dozens of Sacramento-area residents have received calls similar to the one Miriam Bailey answered Friday morning. The caller said he represented the California Highway Patrol and the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department. He asked for a donation to the law enforcement agencies to help keep the community safe.
The caller reminded Bailey of the September 11 terrorist attacks and told her extra funds were needed to pay for the costs of providing increased security. He then asked if she was a patriotic American and believed in what the officers were doing, telling her she could help them by making a credit card donation right then on the phone.
Sensing a fraud, Bailey chose not to provide her credit card information, even after the bogus officer turned belligerent.
Later, after learning that the call was, indeed, a scam, she was disgusted. "We all want to help out and we should, but unfortunately, this kind of puts a damper on that willingness to do so," she said.
D.O. "Spike" Helmick, the commissioner of the CHP, said Bailey did exactly the right thing. "It is absolutely totally bogus," he said. "We're not going to ever ask people to send that kind of money for those kind of purposes, so please please don't send it to them."
Sadly enough, Helmick said the scam is just the latest in a series of schemes designed to prey on people's better natures. "It seems to run across the country every couple of year," he said. "I think they go from one part of the country to another and it's just a scam."
It's certainly not the first such scam in the area. Just three weeks ago, the CHP shut down a so-called "pigeon drop" operation in Sacramento where solicitations were being sought through the mail.
Helmick warned Californians never to give money to a caller claiming to be a law enforcement officer. Instead, he urged anyone who receives such a call to get as much information on the caller as possible, then contact the CHP.
With the information in hand, Helmick said, "We'll reach out and put these people where they belong, in jail."