In many cases, scams are usually rooted in the same few premises, with the scam artists just putting a few tweaks on things to keep them fresh and trick their victims.
This one was different.
On Friday morning, Tim Altomare, police chief for Anne Arundel County, was visibly angry and emotional about the arrest of a man said to be posing as a cop and defrauding immigrant business owners.
The accused scammer went to great lengths to try to legitimize himself in the community according to police. In the end, Altomare said a “telltale sign” made clear that what was happening wasn’t on the up and up.
“You will never get asked for money by an Anne Arundel County policeman,” Altomare said. “No one will ever say to you ‘you need to do this to stay out of trouble.’ That’s not how we do business here.”
It’s a message that Altomare stressed repeatedly at Friday’s news conference, especially since in these most recent cases, the targets were Hispanic business owners and cultural differences were being exploited in ways that the chief feared makes it harder to gain trust and keep people safe.
“We have too many pitfalls between us and the immigrant community already,” said Altomare, who added that someone’s immigration status will never play a role in how the department will respond to those in need. “I have too many people already afraid to come talk to me.”
“A lot of folks in the [Latino] community are coming from places where police do take their money,” the chief said. “That ain’t happening here … And if a cop does ask somebody for money, I have a problem that I have to fix.”
The chief pointed out that a police officer will never legitimately demand payment for anything. Even when a fine is issued for things like speeding or parking infractions, the money is actually collected by a separate entity. Altomare called that a “telltale” sign that should tip someone off that they’re being scammed.
“The Anne Arundel County Police Department will never show up and ask for money, ever,” Altomare said. “We don’t even take fines, right? You’ve got to pay other entities fines for a reason. Because police ain’t supposed to be taking money from people … So that’s a telltale.”
Altomare said it’s appropriate to call 911 if someone claiming to be a police officer ever tries to collect money and suggests negative consequences if someone doesn’t comply.