The Montgomery County Sheriff’s office is warning citizens that phone calls and emails soliciting money for missing jury duty, among other things, are not coming from the department or any other government agency.
“The scammer claims to be a deputy from our office and is currently impersonating our Chief Deputy, Brad St. Clair,” Lt. Marks Hollandsworth wrote in a news release Friday afternoon. “The scammer informs the victim they’ve missed jury duty and demands money. The current scam is coming from 540-425-3253. When you call the number back there is a message that says it’s the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department, making it seem legitimate.”
It is not uncommon for scammers to use the names of real law enforcement officers in an attempt to gain legitimacy, according to the release.
Current callers are telling potential victims they are with the sheriff’s office and that the victim has an outstanding warrant for an unpaid debt, missed jury duty, or some minor infraction and that a fine is due.
“If successful, the caller will then convince victims to make the payments by wiring it through Western Union, MoneyGram or buying a prepaid credit card (like Green Dot) and registering it online,” Hollandsworth wrote.
He said that there is one case in which a citizen was conned out of close to $2000. After releasing information about the scam, several people told the sheriff’s office that they had received the call and after asking the person several questions, knew it was fake.
Hollandsworth wrote that the calls are believed to be coming from cell phones where the numbers are easily spoofed through apps.
“Some we’ve seen have been landline though, especially the IRS Scam,” he wrote.
He said that seniors are generally targeted because they are softer targets and generally more trusting. They can also be susceptible to the high-pressure tactics used by scammers.
“Generally the person stays on the phone throughout the process of going to the store to obtain the cash cards and money orders,” Hollandsworth wrote. “Luckily we’ve had several smart cashiers who have told citizens they are being scammed.“
The release noted multiple warning signs that the call is fake: police do not call first when the have a warrant for a citizen’s arrest.
Law enforcement would come to the residence or citizens would receive certified mail informing them of any legal action that’s being taken against them. If someone owes a fine, they would not be given a 15-minute notice to pay it over the phone.
Refusing to give a mailing address or phone number, asking for personal financial or sensitive information, threatening to have potential victims arrested or reported to a law enforcement agency are also signs of a scam.
The release said to never give out or confirm personal financial or other sensitive information like: name, date of birth, bank account or credit card information or a social security number.
Scam artists, like fake debt collectors, can use personal information to commit identity theft, charge existing credit cards, open new credit cards, checking or savings accounts, write fraudulent checks or take out loans in a victims name.
Those that receive a suspicious call are encouraged to hang up immediately and contact local law enforcement agencies. The investigation is ongoing. Those with information are encouraged to call the sheriff’s office at 382-6915.