WASHINGTON COUNTY, Utah, Nov. 9, 2017 (Gephardt Daily) — Authorities in Southern Utah are warning the public about a telephone-based fraud operation making the rounds this fall.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release on Facebook that during the past several months, law enforcement in Southern Utah has seen an increase in scams in which the suspects involved typically identify themselves as a government authority, threatening arrest if you do not pay past fees owed.
“In a recent scam, suspects have reached out to Washington County citizens representing themselves as deputies with the WCSO,” the news release said. “During the first incident, the suspect identified himself as WCSO Lt. Trevor Benson. The suspect told the victim they had two warrants for their arrest and needed to send two money packets to clear the charges.”
Initially, the suspect called from an unfamiliar number, but eventually made contact with the victim from a number registered to the WCSO.
“The victim did not send money in this incident, but came to the Sheriff’s Office to handle the matter in person,” the news release continues. “A unique circumstance to this fraud attempt was the suspect using the names of actual certified personnel, and also their ability to clone the Sheriff’s Office phone number, giving a legitimate appearance to their victims.”
During a second incident, a victim was lured into transferring $3,500 to the suspect for alleged warrants resulting from “failure to appear.” The suspect identified himself as Sgt. Maddox with the WCSO Civil Division. The suspect demanded payment through the use of Green Dot pre-paid debit cards.
“Although the victim was initially suspicious, a friend contacted the Sheriff’s Office and verified we employ a deputy by that name,” the news release goes on. “The victim then agreed to send the cards as payment. When the suspect called a second time requesting more money, the incident was reported to the Sheriff’s Office and identified as fraudulent activity.”
The Sheriff’s Office is working to identify the suspects in these cases, but is reminding people of some basic tips and Sheriff’s Office practices to avoid becoming a victim of fraud.
1. It is not normal practice for a member of the WCSO to contact you by phone regarding outstanding warrants you may or may not have.
2. If you were notified of an actual warrant (typically in person) you would be directed to the issuing court for a resolution.
3. Although suspects have the ability to clone official phone numbers for outgoing calls, they will not receive calls made to that number. If you suspect fraudulent activity, contact the Sheriff’s Office or your local law enforcement agency, allowing it to investigate the authenticity of the report.
4. Although many courts accept online payments through official websites, no law enforcement agency will ever request that you send money cards or wire transfers. This is a strong indication the conduct is fraudulent.
5. In many cases, victims actually have warrants for their arrest. Citizens are able to search statewide warrants using the following website.