May 01

Guarding Against Money-Making Scams

Posted on May 1, 2023 at 10:47 AM by Deputy Aaron Scheller

Guarding Against Money-Making Scams - Header

Guarding Against Money-Making Scams

The idea of earning a lot of money in a short amount of time is appealing to a lot of people. Cybercriminals know this and see it as an opportunity to commit fraud. There are many types of cybercrime such as phishing scams, data breaches, denial of services, malicious malware, ransomware, and targeted business takeovers. But for this month’s blog, I’ll be sharing information about what two types of money-making scams that have been on the rise lately – the employment scam and the secret shopper scam.  

Employment Scam

The scam works something like this: the criminal looking to commit fraud will either befriend the victim online or post an employment opportunity through email or links generated as ads. It is not uncommon for the scammer to portray themselves as being of the same ethnicity as the victim and to speak their language. This front is all part of the ploy to get the victim to drop their guard.

True stories, identifies withheld

I’ll be sharing two examples of incidents involving Diamond Bar residents (names and addresses omitted) who were taken advantage of through employment scams. I share these stories in hopes they will make you aware, cautious, and better able to recognize the red flags of this type of scam.

Example No.1

The first situation involved a resident who received an email from someone who claimed to be a school professor. The “professor” asked the victim if they were interested in a job.  The victim responded yes and the scammer posing as a professor said they were going to send her money to buy items for the new job.  The victim received three checks in the mail for a total of $6,940 which they deposited into their personal bank account.

The scammer then told the victim they had erroneously sent the wrong amount of money and needed them to repay using Zelle.  The victim promptly returned the money.  A few days later her bank called and notified her that the three checks she had deposited from the scammer were fake.  When the victim tried to contact the scammer, the email no longer existed and the Zelle account had been closed.  

Example No.2

The second example involves a resident who received an email for a job instructing them to fill out hiring documents online. After the victim filled out the information, they were told they would be receiving a $3,500 check by mail. They were instructed to deposit the check and to spend up to $1,000 for the business start-up, and return the remaining $2,500 in cash by mail back to a P.O. Box address.  The victim did as told and was later notified by the bank the checks were fake.

Secret Shopper Scam

The secret shopper scam occurs when someone receives an email or invitation to click on a link which leads them to possible employment as a secret shopper. The victim is then prompted to fill out a quick questionnaire and provide an email and phone number. Days late, the scammer will email or call you to explain that they are an employee of a business which does secret shopping to evaluate a store’s performance.  They will send you a check and direct you to deposit it into your bank account and promptly complete the secret shopper evaluation by shopping and filling out an evaluation of the store. 

Example No. 3

There was a case where a resident received check for $3,500 and was asked to spend approximately $500 at a specific store. They were asked to send back a check for the remaining $2,000 and keep the remaining $1,000 as the payment for their employment as a secret shopper. Days later they found out the original $3,500 check was fraudulent, and they were now out $2,000 because of the check they had sent to the scammer. 

Notice the trends 

If you notice, there was a trend in the three examples I shared. They all started with an email or link where the recipient saw the potential for making quick money. In all three, the scammer sent them the victim an excess of funds and requested they deposit the check and mail back a personal check for the difference. Also, in all three examples, the victim found out after the fact that the checks were fake, and that scammer had stolen their money. 

Don’t feel bad

When this happens to someone, they instantly feel bad or embarrassed for having been duped. However, they shouldn’t because the fact is that it happens to thousands of people. 

Protect yourself

If you see an email for a job opportunity from someone you do not know, do not open the attachment or link. Most of the time, scam job offers will have an unofficial email that does not match the employer they claim to represent. Often, their email address will be made up of various random numbers and letters. If you receive a check from a company that appears to be legitimate and decide to deposit it, wait until the bank has verified that the check has cleared, and the money is in fact in your account before you take another step.

You should also use the Better Business Bureau website to confirm that the company exists, and you should look up the business only, find their corporate business number and call to verify the employment offer is real.

This month's accompanying leaflet covers other cybercrimes and provides tips to prevent you from becoming a victim.

As always, thank you for taking time to read this blog and leaflet, and for sharing with family and friends. If you have any public safety-related questions or concerns you want to share with the City or our local sheriff’s station, or if you have suggestions for topics to cover in this blog, be sure to let me know using the Ask a Deputy online form.

PDF Copy of the Leaflet

How to Detect and Guard Against Cybercrime

Mar 30

What to Expect During a Traffic Stop

Posted on March 30, 2023 at 8:35 AM by Deputy Aaron Scheller

What To Do If Pulled Over by the Police Blog Entry Header

What to Expect During a Traffic Stop

I, myself, have been pulled over by law enforcement so I understand how it can be a very anxious situation for many people. Personally, when I saw those red and blue flashing lights behind me, I instantly felt my heart beat increase and it became difficult to breathe normally. 

Getting pulled over is not something we plan for, or look forward to, so when it happens, panic naturally sets in. You immediately start wondering where you should stop and if you remembered to put away your vehicle registration in the glove compartment, and you hope your ID card is in your wallet or purse, where it should be.

I hope this blog will give you a little insight on what you should expect during a traffic stop and what you should do to have things go smoothly.

Traffic Stops Can Be Stressful Situations for the Officer As Well

What you might not know is that the officer pulling you over is also feeling uneasy. There is an inherent level of uncertainty in every traffic stop and every interaction is different, which is why officers take precautions to keep themselves and the driver as safe as possible. Even so, traffic stops can be one of the most dangerous duties a patrol officer can perform. 

FBI Statistics (January-September 2021)

  • 59 police officers, including two special FBI agents, were killed in the line of duty.
  • 44,421 officers were assaulted without a weapon (hands, fists, or feet), with 25.8% of these officers being injured.
  • 2,744 officers were assaulted with firearms with 6.1% of these officers being injured.
  • 1,180 officers were assaulted with knives or other cutting instruments with 9.7% of these officers being injured.
  • 11,760 officers were assaulted with other types of dangerous weapons with 16.8% of these officers being injured.

Why Law Enforcement Officers Conduct Pullovers

Traffic stops are one of the most frequent duties of a patrol officer. They are conducted when an officer has witnessed or suspects the driver or vehicle has committed or been involved in a traffic violation or criminal act.

Traffic Stop Risk Categories

All traffic stops fall into one of the two risk categories – unknown-risk and high-risk.

Unknown Risk

Traffic stops that fall into the unknown risk category are related to traffic or equipment violations or suspicious activity reports. The reason they are categorized as unknown-risk is because the officer has no prior information about the driver. It can be an ordinary individual who broke a traffic law, or a parole at large who is armed and ready and willing to assault the officer making the traffic stop.

High Risk

Traffic stops that go into the high-risk category are those that potentially involve criminal activity such as a vehicle that matches the description of one that has been reported stolen or used in a crime. During these types of stops, the officer will stop a considerable distance behind the vehicle and will have the driver and passenger(s) exit and walk back to them.  This gives the officer the opportunity to evaluate the intentions of the occupants in the safest manner as possible.

What To Do and Expect During A Traffic Stop

If an officer requests that you pull over, stay calm and find the nearest safest place to stop on the right side of the road.  If you are on the freeway, it’s possible the officer will ask you to exist the off-ramp if they deem it necessary for both your safety and theirs.

If you have your radio on, it is important you turn it down so you can hear any instructions the officer may be providing over the loud speaker.

Once you come to a stop, turn off your car, roll down your windows, and keep your hands on the steering wheel. This will indicate to the officer that you are not a threat and are willing to comply with instructions. 

The officer will exit their vehicle, and approach you from the safest side of the vehicle. As a safety measure, if it’s dark out, the officer will shine their spotlight or flashlight to illuminate the inside of the vehicle. 

They will ask to see your driver’s license, registration and proof of auto insurance. If these documents are on your person or stored somewhere in your vehicle, let the deputy know before you reach for them. After you hand your documents to the officer, they will return to their vehicle to verify that they are valid and current.

If they have not told you the reason for the traffic stop by this point, I encourage you to ask them when they return your documents.  If they do not answer right away, don’t be upset. They will let you know before they conclude the traffic stop.

What an Officer Hears, Sees and Smells Can Come Into Question

One thing to keep in mind during a traffic stop is that everything an officer hears, sees and smells can come into question. For example, if someone is pulled over for a traffic violation but there is an open container of alcohol, a simple citation will change to an investigation of possible drinking while driving or maybe being under the influence.  The same goes if they smell alcohol or marijuana coming from the vehicle.

Do Not Argue with the Officer

If you disagree with the officer’s decision or course of action, do not argue with them. The right time and place to challenge the charge on your citation is on your court day.

You Must Sign the Citation

If you receive a citation, be sure to sign it. Your acceptance of, and signature on, a traffic ticket is not an admission of guilt. However, the refusal to sign a traffic ticket may result in your arrest.  

Immigration Status is Irrelevant During a Traffic Stop 

Law enforcement is not in the business of immigration. Actually, in my 23 years as a Sheriff’s deputy, I’ve never asked anyone about their immigration status. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Policy 05-09/271.00 states “Department members shall not initiate police action with the objective of discovering an individual’s immigration status.” The policy goes on to state that officers will not inquire about an individual’s immigration status and will not forward any information to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  However, if you are an unlicensed driver, you might get a ticket for driving without a license (Violation 12500 CVC) which is a traffic infraction.

That’s it for this month’s blog. I encourage you to check out the corresponding leaflet and to share it with family members and friends. As always, if you have any public safety-related questions or concerns you want to share with the City or our local sheriff’s station, or if you have suggestions for topics to cover in this blog, be sure to let me know using the Ask a Deputy feature.

PDF Copy of the LeafletWhat to do if Pulled Over by the Police-image

As always, if you have any public safety-related questions or concerns you want to share with the City or our local sheriff’s station, or if you have suggestions for topics to cover in this blog, be sure to let me know using the online Ask a Deputy form.

Mar 01

Protect Your Car Against Catalytic Converter Theft

Posted on March 1, 2023 at 8:27 AM by Deputy Aaron Scheller

Header Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft

Protect Your Car Against Catalytic Converter Theft

The number of reports filed for stolen catalytic converters has shot through the roof in recent years. In 2019, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reported there had been approximately 3,400 cases of catalytic converter thefts across the country, and that number rose to 14,500 the following year. This is a four-time increase in just one year! Still, both these statistics pale in comparison to the 2021 figure when a staggering 50,000 converters were reported stolen!

Clearly, the theft of catalytic converters is a lucrative business for criminals.  We are still waiting for 2022 statistics, but I believe you’re going to see another sharp increase.

Now, you may be scratching your head on what exactly catalytic converters are, and you’re not alone. Catalytic converters are part of your vehicle’s exhaust system and they are designed to control emissions. Their components include precious metals such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium that are usually worth more than gold. To give you an idea, there was a point in 2021 when rhodium was worth close to $30,000 per precious metal ounce(oz t). This on top of the fact it only takes a few seconds for an experienced criminal to detach the part from your vehicle, makes it a very appealing crime. Once they have your converter, they can exchange it for cash at a scrapyard.

The Most Targeted Vehicles

The common consensus seems to be that the Prius, Tacoma, Lexus, Accord, and generally all SUVs are some of the most targeted vehicles for catalytic converter theft. However, all vehicles built in or after 1974 have catalytic converters so any vehicle can be targeted for this crime.

How the Crime Occurs

A catalytic converter theft generally happens like this – A criminal will pick a vehicle, park beside it, pull out a jack and a reciprocating saw, lift one side of the vehicle high enough to underneath. They will take the saw and cut the muffler pipes on each side of the converter, and in less than 60 seconds they are driving off with your converter. 

Detecting a Missing Catalytic Converter

You might be asking yourself, “How will I know my converter has been removed?” Well, if you start your car and your once quiet car now sounds like it belongs on a racetrack because it is extremely loud, chances are your catalytic converter is missing. By cutting the exhaust, the combustion sound comes straight out of the pipe without going through the muffler, which causes the loud motor noises. 

Catalytic Converter Theft Protection Devices

There are aftermarket components like a “cat strap” or “cat plate” that you can attach to your catalytic converter to help prevent a theft.  I would recommend you go to a trusted mechanic and discuss this matter.  They can suggest the best device based on your vehicle make and model.

Free Converter Etching Events

One significant problem with catalytic converters is that they are not serialized.  They are not produced with any identifying marks that link it to your specific vehicle. The Diamond Bar Sheriff’s team has been conducting an “etching” program where deputies will go under our car and etch identifying numbers on the converter.  While this won’t prevent it from being stolen, it will help you get it back in the event it is and help prosecute the responsible criminals.  If you’re interested in having your converter etched, come down to the Calvary Chapel Golden Springs (22324 Golden Springs Dr, Diamond Bar, CA 91765) parking lot on the third Wednesday of the month between 9 and 11 a.m.  Appointments are not necessary.

That’s it for this month’s blog. I encourage you to check out the corresponding leaflet and to share it with family members and friends.

PDF Copy of the LeafletHow to Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft

As always, if you have any public safety-related questions or concerns you want to share with the City or our local sheriff’s station, or if you have suggestions for topics to cover in this blog, be sure to let me know using the online Ask a Deputy form.