RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Law enforcement agencies in the Triangle area are struggling to get the word out that they are not asking for your money to get you out of trouble.
The “pay-the-cops scam” has been around for a while, but it’s back with some new twists, and those who track these kind of scams involving law enforcement say they’ve been increasing in the last few years, with the criminals running them becoming more clever and aggressive.
This latest scam starts with a voicemail message on your phone purporting to be from the Durham County Sheriff’s office that tells you to call back a number. When you call back, the number presents a menu from a person claiming to be a deputy that offers you several choices.
However, the number isn’t run by the Durham County sheriff’s office, and it’s not a Durham County deputy you get connected to, but a criminal after your money.
“It’s very well done; it sounds professional,” says Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews, who says his office found out about this version of the scam after a woman called saying she’d lost over $1,000 dollars.
“She was advised she had an outstanding warrant and in order to satisfy this warrant she’d need to send $1,500,” said the sheriff.
The scammers ask the victim to obtain money order or gift cards to satisfy the fine you supposedly owe, but that’s not how it’s done by real law enforcement.
“If you are really in trouble with the law, you’ll know it,” says the sheriff. “If we are looking for you, we’ll have an officer come to your house.”
The scammers count on you wanting to do the right thing, like a Wake County woman who got a call saying she missed Grand Jury duty. “Because this is the law calling you, you think OK he’s a deputy; I’ve done something wrong,” says Betty Quesenbery.
Quesenbery says she finally figured out she was being scammed during the phone call because of the conflicting information the caller provided, and ended the conversation.
Because these scams use phone calls to intimidate victims and the call can be suspect, Sheriff Andrews says there’s a foolproof way to see if you’ve got issues with law enforcement.
“It may be an inconvenience; but come to the courthouse to speak with us,” he said. “We’ll figure it out with you.”
The sheriff says when these criminals call you, they’re very aggressive and won’t let up till you agree to pay.
If you get a phone call from someone saying they’re in law enforcement, the best thing to do is to just hang up.
For more from the Durham County Sheriff’s office on fake calls, visit their Facebook page.