News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, June 5, 2012
COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. -- The Drug Enforcement Agency is warning folks to watch out for scam artists impersonating federal agents for extortion.
Cecilia Dennenberg, 70, says a man called her, identifying himself as "Agent Joe Shelton" with the DEA.
"Badge number such and such, precinct such and such. He said they were working with the DEA and FBI," she said.
The "agent" told her she was under investigation for illegally purchasing prescription drugs over the Internet.
"They said the police would be here any minute and that I'd be in handcuffs," Dennenberg said.
The so-called agent told her that she needed to pay $385 to avoid arrest. Dennenberg saw the red flag and called deputies.
"They are crafty, they are pretty good at these scams. Very demanding," said Cpt. Steve Morris with the Columbia County Sheriff's Office.
Morris says the scam artists pretending to be agents are extremely convincing and have been targeting people in the CSRA for years.
News 12 On Your Side called the scam artist's phone number but went straight to an official-sounding voicemail box. A man identifying himself as "Federal Agent Joe Shelton" immediately called us back. He told News 12's Elizabeth Owens he was a federal agent with the DEA.
The man continued to tell us he was a government employee but his scam began to unravel when asked to speak to his supervisor.
"Shelton" told News 12 that God was his supervisor and that he was sending law enforcement to come arrest Owens. He hung up the phone after Owens asked him how many people were working with him in the scam.
Real DEA officials say their agents would never ask for money.
The Columbia County Sheriff's Office is investigating, however, it's really hard to actually make an arrest in these sorts of cases since most of the time the scam originates overseas.