Over the past week, at least seven women in the Battle Creek area reported receiving a call from a man claiming to be Detective Todd Elliott. The caller reportedly told the women that they were in legal trouble and needed to meet with him to resolve it. Some also reported getting comments of a sexual nature.
The women contacted all work for Jaqua Realtors, a West Michigan brokerage with more than 100 agents. The Battle Creek Police Department does employ a detective named Todd Elliott, who believes that the scammer found his name on the department’s website and used it to impersonate him.
“We do not call people and try to solicit money over the phone. We do not call people and threaten arrest,” Elliott said, adding that the calls came from a spoofed number made to look like it came from the police. “We will call people for criminal investigations, but we don’t call people for the sole purpose saying, ‘You have a warrant and you need to take care of it.'”
Elliott added that they are currently working to identify the caller and made some headway when a female detective was able to reach him on the phone. (The man replied with a sexually suggestive comment and hung up.)
Since real estate agents need to have their contact information highly visible online, they are often susceptible to scams and other kinds of online fraud. As the situation in Michigan unfolds, both the police department and the Battle Creek Area Association of Realtors issued statements urging local agents to be careful and contact the police at 269-966-3322 if they receive a phone call from the scammer.
“This impersonator is telling agents they should pay them or meet them in order to clear their warrant. This is a SCAM. As a reminder, you should ALWAYS verify who you are meeting with and take necessary safety precautions,” the BCAR statement, which a member forwarded to Inman, reads. “Be safe out there! If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right. Listen to your gut!”