A phone scam that has struck numerous places across the country has recently been reported in Birch Bay.
A Birch Bay resident who preferred only to be known as R.J. just called and told me a representative from the "law and investigation department" left him an abusive message saying R.J. was in danger of being arrested. The man who left the voicemail, who called himself David Martin, said he had a warrant out for R.J.'s arrest in connection with a payday loan R.J. had recently applied for. Martin was able to tell R.J. the last four digits of his social security number.
R.J. said Martin had a thick Indian or Pakistani accent and threatened R.J. with arrest multiple times. Martin said R.J. would "know what a nightmare is" and that he "should get the best lawyer God could provide" if R.J. didn't pay back the money he owed.
"It's practicably laughable, but that's going to scare the hell out of somebody," R.J. said. "They're looking for money."
R.J. said Martin had called him twice within a 20 minute period. R.J.'s wife first picked up the phone and quickly hung up when the unfamiliar voice asked for her husband. Twenty minutes later, Martin left the threatening message.
The first call came from 630/332-0853, which is a Chicago area code, while the second came from 786/752-7174, which is in Florida. I looked up both of these numbers via Google, as R.J. had done, and found that West Virginia, Rhode Island, Colorado, Kansas and Florida all have consumer alerts warning of the scam.
R.J. called the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office to report the call, and he was advised to tell the scam callers if the call back that law enforcement has been notified. R.J. said the sheriff's office had not heard any other complaints about this specific scam, as R.J. never had before "David Martin" called him.
"I haven't heard of this one before," R.J. said. "That's why I called [the newspaper]."
If these scammers call anyone else, they are advised to call the county sheriff's non-emergency number at 360/676-6911.
I have calls out to the Washington Better Business Bureau and the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions to see whether this scam has been reported before in Washington. Look for an updated story in next week's issue of The Northern Light.