Scammers Remix Old Con Game to Rip-off Citizens

scam alert

Scammers Remix Old Con Game to Rip-off Citizens

January 27, 2020

The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a new version of an old phone scam.  Citizens report receiving calls from individuals falsely claiming to be a deputy ⸻ not just any deputy, a member of Sheriff Ted Jackson’s senior command staff.  The perpetrators tell residents they must pay a fine immediately or face jail time.  Fortunately, the would-be-victims were wise enough not to be taken in.  

The scammers recently contacted a Fulton County employee on her desk line. Although she says the man sounded very convincing as he threatened her with jail time unless she paid up, she knew better and called the real deputy.  When our commander called the scammers back, the crooks had an electronic call handler instructing him to press one to speak to the person impersonating him.  While the setup seemed perhaps professional, it is in fact a con game.

Let it be known: Real sheriff deputies do not call you on the telephone.  Deputies come to your door to execute warrants, either criminal or civil from the courts system.  A deputy will not shake you down for cash or force you to put money on a re-loadable credit card. If you receive one of these phony phone calls, then please report it immediately to a local investigator.  You can reach the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office at 404-612-5100.  

The Takeaways:

• Deputies do not call citizens on the phone about warrants or fines;
• Deputies come to your door;
• Do not send money and do not load money on gift cards to pay fines or fees;
• Do not share personal info with someone who randomly calls you; and
• Record the details (names, phone numbers, agency, etc.) and call the real investigators.

There are reports of this type of scam dating as far back as 2005. The older version of the scam involved perpetrators calling victims pretending to be a court administration employee (court clerk, jury coordinator). The fake court employee tells the victim that they missed jury duty and as a result there is an arrest warrant for him or her. The fraudster asks for personally identifiable information (PII) such as a social security number and date of birth from the victim to supposedly verify the information in the file and remove the arrest warrant from the system.  Identity theft was the goal.  
The con job soon evolved to scammers demanding money from the victims by telling them they could avoid being arrested by paying the associated fines over the telephone by purchasing a reloadable credit/debit card and giving the PIN (Personal Identification Number) to the fake official. 
In another version of the scam, the perpetrators call the homes of citizens and asking for the target by name.  The con artist would typically prey upon married couples and indicate the warrant is for the spouse. The perpetrator may introduces himself as a Fulton County Deputy Sheriff and advises that there is an active arrest warrant for the citizen, for missing jury duty. The law enforcement impersonator will sometimes go as far as providing a date, time, judge’s name, courtroom number and location where the jury duty was supposedly missed. One victim even reported hearing what sounded like police radios and other telephone calls occurring in the background during the conversations with the impersonators.  The perpetrators often use prepaid mobile telephones in an attempt to avoid detection.
Some con artists have enhanced the scam by spoofing the telephone number of a real government agency. When the victim receives the call, the caller ID shows the number of an actual law enforcement agency. 
These scams have become a nation-wide problem with reports from the west coast to the east coast.  It is believed these criminals* work different jurisdictions throughout the state of Georgia including right here in Fulton County. 

*Official Code of Georgia Annotated:
16-10-23. Impersonating a public officer or employee
A person who falsely holds himself out as a peace officer or other public officer or employee with intent to mislead another into believing that he is actually such officer commits the offense of impersonating an officer and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000.00 or by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years, or both.