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Albany resident Marcus Andrews was relieved to have posted bail for release from the Linn County Jail Dec. 19 after a minor probation violation.

But a call from a person claiming to be a deputy caused him to fear he'd return to prison if he didn't come up with more money.

The caller, identifying himself as "Deputy Stephens," told the 21-year-old there was an error with his $1,000 bail, and then told him he shouldn't have been eligible for bail in the first place.

"He told me that I would need to pay the $1,000 again or there would be a warrant issued for my arrest," Andrews said.

Andrews said the caller's number came up as the Linn County Sheriff, which lent legitimacy to the scam. Linn County Undersheriff Bruce Yon said that such scammers use technology to create decoy numbers to add to the deception.

When Andrews challenged the caller for his badge number, he said the caller became angry and defensive, saying, "I'm not the one who's the criminal and just got out of jail." The caller told Andrews he was "trying to make it easier," and suggested Andrews could pay him online.

It wasn't until Andrews' dad mentioned a news story about bail scams that Andrews began to feel a little better. Still, Andrews told the caller he would go to the jail to work it out. He never went, and no officers or deputies showed up at his house.

That story is indicative of a rash of similar scams, says Linn County Sheriff Lieutenant Michelle Duncan.

"Any way they can think of to try and get money from you, they will," she said.

Scams of all kinds have been reported throughout Linn County. Some callers pose as representatives of banks, claiming account issues or asking for account information. Others claim to be computer companies with information on virus repairs or updates, or a request for payment. Some scammers have been known to pose as grandchildren to prey on the elderly.

Scammers also use dating sites to snare victims, exchanging intimate photos or details, then threatening blackmail. Some may later claim to be minors and either threaten victims with arrest or to send incriminating information to employers or loved ones.

Sheriff Bruce Riley offers basic tips to avoid such scams:

Neither the IRS, nor any law enforcement agency, including the Linn County Sheriff's Office, will ask for money in lieu of being arrested. People are also encouraged to not offer personal information to strangers or companies they aren't expecting calls from. No legitimate agency or business requests payment via wire or pay cards.

Anyone with questions regarding such exchanges is encouraged to ask for the caller's agency or company name, then find a legitimate customer service number for that entity and call to confirm that the request is legitimate.

Contact reporter Neil Zawicki at 541-812-6099 or neil.zawicki@lee.net

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