HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The Orange County sheriff is warning people that someone is impersonating a deputy, demanding money on the phone and people are falling for the scheme and paying him.
If someone walked up to you wearing a toy badge and carrying a pair of cheap, tin, kiddie handcuffs demanding money to forget about a crime, you wouldn’t believed that person.
So, why would you believe someone calling you on the phone, making the same claims to keep you out of jail if you pay him money?
That’s what happened to an Orange County woman who received a voicemail message.
“The person identified himself by name as a sergeant with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, said spokeswoman Alicia Stemper. “In fact, we do indeed have a deputy by that name.”
The caller ID on the victim’s phone said it was from the sheriffs office, but the number had been “spoofed.” The scammer got around that with simple ruse.
Stemper said the scammer told the victim “to call me back on my direct line” and provided a different number from the sheriff’s office.
The scammer raised the victim’s anxiety level with his voice message saying, “I have important legal matters to discuss with you.”
He claimed the victim had missed a court date and ignored a subpoena.
Stemper said the victim got drawn in because the scammer used high pressure tactics and “spoke very quickly with a sense of urgency.”
When the victim called back in response to the voice message, the fake deputy said she could rectify the missed court appearance by paying a fine and all would be forgiven.
“He asked her to get Green Dot gift cards,” said Stemper. The victim lost $2,500.
This type of scammer always asks for a money order, gift card or prepaid credit card to satisfy the fine. But, by using that method, the money is lost instantly, because the scammers have victims read the card numbers to them over the phone — and they’ve got the cash before the call is even over.
Stemper said the best way for someone to check with the sheriff’s office to see if there’s a problem is to call it directly using the number listed on the internet.
She said you can also call 911.
“If you need a deputy, that’s the mechanism,” she said. Just make sure to explain to the dispatcher it’s a non-emergency call and you need to speak to a deputy about a law enforcement matter.
The best advice: if you get a money demand call like that, just hang-up.
Remember, no law enforcement officer requests money over the phone, especially via untraceable gift cards.
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