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Scammers posing as law enforcement in phone calls, Pinellas authorities say

CLEARWATER — Detectives at the Clearwater Police Department and the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office are investigating phone scams by callers posing as law enforcement officers.

The scam was first reported to Pinellas deputies Tuesday. So far, three cases have been identified this week by the Sheriff's Office. Businesses and homes have received phone calls from people using a "spoofing technique" to make the call appear it is coming from the Sheriff's Office non-emergency phone line.

The caller poses as a Sheriff's Office detective and tells victims they have an outstanding warrant from the Department of Justice or the U.S. Department of Treasury. If they don't pay a fine, the caller continues, they will be arrested.

The callers, whom detectives describe as men with foreign accents, then tell victims to send money through prepaid credit cards or a money gram.

In Clearwater, detectives are working similar cases, where a man who identifies himself as Richard Hamilton calls residents and states he is with the "Florida State Police." He advises them to call another number, where another person tells them they should make a payment on money owed on back tax returns, police said.

Anyone with information in the Sheriff's Office cases is asked to call Sgt. Tim Kelly at (727) 582-6200. Clearwater residents are asked to call police at (727) 562-4424.