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Los Angeles-area phone scammers target people nationwide

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LOS ANGELES — A months-old phone scam that originated in Los Angeles is now targeting people across the country.

Los Angeles County sheriff's Deputy Ryan Rouzan (roo-zan) said four deputies fielded up to 100 calls Friday morning from people reporting scam calls in states such as Florida, Ohio, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, New York, Kansas, New Jersey, Illinois and Indiana.

In months prior, the department received roughly 30 calls per day, primarily from Los Angeles County or California residents reporting the scam, but on Friday the scammers appeared to expand their area.

"Today was just bad," Rouzan said. "Every time we picked up the phone we were getting one."

The callers often spoof the Sheriff's Department number, telling victims they have a warrant in the system, owe the IRS money or missed jury service and must pay $150 to $25,000 to remedy the situation.

They're told to purchase a Green Dot pre-paid card at a store for payment. And the victims call back with a code scratched off the back of the card. Once the money is spent, it can't be recovered, Rouzan said.

Law enforcement can trace the money to an account but can't access it, Rouzan said.

Authorities believe multiple people are involved in making the calls, because of reports of both male and female voices, he said.

Call recipients should never provide personal information over the phone and should inform local authorities, the LA County Sheriff's Department and monitor their accounts for identity theft, Rouzan said.

"My own mother, they called her and they were like 'We need you to verify your bank account statement,'" Rouzan said. "She said 'I'm not doing that' and she hung up the phone."

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