Spate of fraudulent ‘911’ calls hits area

Authorities have received reports of a series of fraudulent phone calls throughout the Bay Area, with cell phone users receiving messages from police impersonators.

According to San Francisco’s Emergency Communications Department, the phone calls show up with “911 Emergency” or “Emergency Call 911” on the caller identification, and the caller identifies him or herself as a police officer. The caller then tells the person that there is a warrant for his or her arrest, or that there is an emergency at their home and they need to get there immediately, according to the ECD memo.

In one case, the caller tried to elicit the home address of a female cell-phone subscriber. In another, a female caller said she was a police officer who had been shot and needed help.

According to the ECD, only one such incident has been reported in San Francisco. Initial complaints were logged in Contra Costa, Solano and Alameda counties. The majority of the calls have been reported by Pittsburg-area residents, but Marshall said the fraud calls are now being reported in a wider area.

Several dozen complaints about the calls have been logged with the California Highway Patrol since Saturday, according to Mary Pat Marshall, the communications director of CHP. Complaints have also been filed with local authorities in the East Bay. The CHP, which handles more than 70 percent of the Bay Area’s 911 calls placed by cell phones, has opened a criminal investigation.

At the initial onset of the investigation, authorities were under the impression that women were the primary targets. However, as the number of incidents increases, “it is a mix of males and females,” according to Marshall. The calls have been going primarily to Metro PCS subscribers, but a few Verizon and Nextel customers have also been affected, according to the EOC.

Requests for comments from Metro PCS were not returned.

Marshall would not comment on the ongoing investigation, but cautioned that Bay Area cell phone users need to be cognizant of any information they provide under such circumstances.

“Each of us needs to be aware who we are providing information to, and needs to confirm where the call is coming from,” said Marshall.

amartin@examiner.com

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