RENO, NV - There was a disturbing message left on Carol and Bob Harris' home phone one day last week.
It began "This is David Long of the Nevada Department of Transportation......
The man pronounced the name of the state "Neh-vah-dah" which was an immediate red flag. Still, it sounded official.
Harris returned the call. When they finally connected, the man at the other end had his name, address and a professional demeanor.
"He goes into this spiel about I had been photographed speeding on I-580 and a citation had been issued and mailed to me," says Bob Harris.
He hadn't received a ticket or a court summons, but traffic cameras have been in use elsewhere. He does travel 580 fairly often.
"i'm a little worried now and I'm starting to lead him out a little bit," recalls Harris. "'well how do I pay the fine?' Well I had to pay it electronically."
Harris told the man he didn't use computers. It was suggest he purchase a prepaid debit card totaling nearly $400 and call with its 10 digit number.
On the pretext that it could have been her behind the wheel, Carol Harris called the man back. He was full of convincing detail.
"He said how many miles an hour over the speed limit," says Carol. "He had the court date that Bob had not shown up for. He had a date when the warrant had been issued. He had a case number."
But the date of the alleged violation made no sense. In any case, they'd long since decided this was a scam, but it was disturbing.
Worried that others might fall for it. they contacted NDOT.
Spokesman Scott Magruder says they weren't the only ones. Anyway he added, a call like this wouldn't be coming from NDOT.
"The bottom line is the Department of Transportation is not in any way shape or form in the business of issuing warrants or collecting warrants."
Magruder called the number this morning and had a brief conversation with the man identifying himself as David Long. It ended abruptly and may have tipped the man off that people were on to his scam
A few hours later Bob Harris tried again for us. He got a recorded message from the cell phone provider Verizon. The phone number which shows as originating in Fallon was no longer in service.
And so our scam artist has moved on. The next time he calls Mr. Long will probably have another name and certainly another number. Sooner or later he'll find a victim.
The matter has been turned over to investigators in the Attorney General's office. They suggest anyone getting such a call contact them, NDOT or local police.
By the way traffic cameras are not used to issue citations in any Nevada jurisdiction. In fact, Nevada law specifically prohibits it.