Missoula police warn of phone scam


MISSOULA, Mont. - The Missoula Police Department is warning residents about a phone scam, but it has a catch. If you get a scam call it may look like the Missoula Police Department is trying to call you. That's because scammers are using their main switchboard number -- 406-552-6300.

MPD says their system hasn't been hacked. They say scammers are more likely using a software or application to disguise their number as a more well-known one -- in this case, MPD's number.

As of Thursday the department had received four complaints of the scam but say there could be more that have gone unreported.

In one of the cases the complainant told police the scammers told her she was involved in a crime and would be subpoenaed. The complainant was then transferred to another person who began asking her personal information. That's when the complainant knew there was something wrong and started asking questions back and eventually ended the call.

Missoula Police Sergeant Travis Welsh says it's extremely important to ask critical questions and not fall victim to the scammers.

"As long as the environment is rich with opportunity scammers will stick around, but more and more if people learn about this, learn what to look for, learn to be suspicious with phone calls, ask critical questions, the scammers will get bored because it won't be productive here and they'll go elsewhere," Welsh explained.

"I've actually gotten those calls a few times," said Katie McGrath, a Missoula resident. "It's really scary though, and I know the first time it happened to me I was just like, 'Oh my god. Am I going to jail?' I called my parents and they were like 'It's a scam, it's a scam.'"

Welsh says if you do get a call, ask the person on the other end of the phone who they are, why they're calling, who they're with, as well as the name of their direct supervisor. After that, hang up the phone, give the number they called from a call back and ask to talk to that supervisor directly to verify the purpose of the call.

Police say in some instances they will call you to ask questions, but they will tell you who they are, their position and who they are calling with as well as cite what investigation you're connected to.

MPD reports the suspects making these scam calls are a male and female with a heavy accent. They say it's unknown what type of accent at this time. Right now MPD cannot trace where the calls are coming from.

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