JOHNSTON, Iowa – A scam involving an online dating website has Johnston Police warning residents about calls from someone fraudulently claiming to be a Johnston police officer.
Police say the scammers are using the dating service “Plenty of Fish” to find targets of the imposter scam. They first pose as a member of the site and then contact users directly, using phone numbers they’ve obtained on the site.
The scammers try to get money from users while impersonating a member of the Johnston Police Department, often threatening to press charges if they aren’t paid. The threat of violence is also used.
“Calls threatening you or asking for money are flat-out scams,” said Johnston Police Chief, Dennis McDaniel. “These scammers steal the names of real agency personnel solely to scare you into paying them. While the scammers may change up the phone numbers, they are calling from; they are calling for one mission, to get you to share your account information, or send money.”
Johnston police say the scam may come in more than one call, with the first coming from 515-236-2662 and a second call from 314-207-6435.
Police are offering tips to avoid being scammed:
- Don’t trust caller ID readings – scammers often spoof names and numbers to make them appear like a local caller.
- Let numbers you do not recognize go directly to voicemail. And do not call unknown numbers back.
- Hang up on anyone who threatens you with arrest, legal action, or seizure of your accounts.
- Do not converse with anyone online that you do not know, and certainly do not share any personal photos of yourself.
- Hang up if anyone directs you to pay using store gift cards, money wires or mailed cash. These are often used because they are difficult to trace.
Contact the Johnston Police Department at 515-278-2345 if you do receive a scam call.