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Phony phone campaign cites school, police effort

An alleged telephone campaign seeking funding for a drug and alcohol prevention program at Langley Middle School is a scam, South Whidbey School District officials confirmed this week.

Neither the district nor a school partner is involved in such an effort, said Superintendent Jo Moccia, and residents who receive calls requesting money for the phony effort should report the incident to police.

“None of us know anything about it,” Moccia said. “I would warn people to not accept phone solicitation when they don’t know the person on the other end.”

The bogus campaign came to light this week when a Langley man, Mike Swap, was contacted by a person who claimed to represent the Langley Police Department. According to Swap, the man said he was collecting money for a drug and alcohol prevention program at the middle school. The caller was friendly and convincing, said Swap, but as a victim of a past scam he was highly suspicious and a quick call to Langley police confirmed his fears.

“They said the department doesn’t do that,” Swap said. “The officer said phone scams are common, and that even he’s gotten calls at home.”

Police Chief Dave Marks confirmed the department is not involved in any such effort on behalf of the school district, nor is he personally aware of any such program at the school.

“I’ve never heard of that, and I don’t think I’m that out of the loop,” said Marks, with a chuckle.

He added that if his department was collecting money, he has yet to see the dividends.

“I haven’t seen the check yet,” he said.

According to Marks, if Langley police were collecting for a community or school program, the effort would be highly publicized in various forms of media, such as in the newspaper or on the city’s website.

The chief said this was the first complaint concerning the phony school program he knows of, but that telephone-based scams are pretty common. Many claim that a person has won money, but require a small payment upfront before the cash is released.

Another common hustle, often accomplished by email and targeted at the elderly, is when a person claims they are a loved one in trouble and in need of financial assistance, said Sgt. Laura Price with the Island County Sheriff’s Office, South Precinct.

“It goes something like, ‘Hi grandma, I’m in jail and need bail money,’” Price said.

Whatever the scenario, residents should be extra cautious whenever an unknown person requests money, according to Price. Never agree to give cash without first doing a bit of research. Ask for a contact number, a website or business address, then follow up with a bit of investigation. Swap did the right thing by calling police to verify the call before agreeing to send any cash, she said.

As a general rule, people should never give out personal information, especially over the phone because it’s a tool “legitimate organizations” seldom use for solicitation purposes.

“Personally, I would steer clear of the phone,” Price said.

Swap said he came forward in hopes of warning South Whidbey residents of the scammers. They sound nice and propose a worthy cause, but people should not be fooled, he said.

“I just don’t want to see people get taken, especially for something so convincing. ... These guys are just crooks,” he said.

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