Criminals impersonating law enforcement to steal

FRESNO, Calif.

Investigators say they're seeing an increase in a new trend where people are being called by a thief who is impersonating a California Highway Patrol officer. The suspects often research their victims carefully before scaring them into thinking they owe taxes and then scamming them.

Many who come to worship at Selma's Sikh Temple are worried after finding out their friends were cheated out of cash. "This is very sad to hear that this is happening in our Punjabi community especially," said Nick Sahota.

At least four people we talked to at this temple say they got calls in recent weeks from crooks demanding thousands of dollars.

One woman who didn't want to be identified on camera says she's received calls from men pretending to be California Highway Patrol Officers. "They say give your information, your social security number, your address, your name. I say, "why I give it to you?" Then they hang up," she said.

Officers were first alerted to this increasing trend on March 27th after another Selma woman of Indian descent got a call from at least two suspects impersonating CHP. Investigators say the crooks really did their homework and asked if the victim spoke Punjabi or Hindi. "They knew who they were contacting and they happened to have a translator on the other end of the phone," said CHP's Johnny Fisher.

Officer Fisher says they told the victim she owed taxes and needed to pay up more than $3,000 in cash. The men then ordered her to drive to an ATM while on the phone. But officers say her husband found it fishy and told her to go to a police station instead. "It sounded as if they were following her because as soon she went to the police department there was nobody on the phone again," said Fisher.

Those in the Indian community are outraged thieves are preying on the vulnerable. "These are the old people who don't speak good English and they are easy to target," said Sahota.

California Highway Patrol Officers are reminding the public that they would never make a cold call asking anyone to transfer cash over the phone.

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