WASHINGTON — You get a call from someone who says he’s with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. He tells you you’re in trouble: You’ve missed jury duty and an arrest warrant will be issued unless you pay up, right now.
Fifty of those calls were made in one week alone, and Sheriff’s Deputy James Johnson has talked to the victims. They all say the caller sounded legit, and a little scary. Johnson says he’s been told again and again, “This guy, this scammer, is very intimidating.”
Johnson says the person making the call sounds very authoritative. “It’s very convincing.”
And even when the victim on the other end of the phone senses there may be a scam, and asks to call back, the scammer provides a number. And when the victim calls that number, it sounds realistic — not at all fake. So the victim pays anywhere from $400 to $1,000 in the cases Johnson’s dealt with.
In other cases, the scammer will get the victim to provide credit card information, and tell them that they now have a new court date, and will pick a date out of thin air, usually two weeks in the future. Johnson says in those cases, “Then the people show up here to court, and that’s when they figure out they’ve been scammed.” In the meantime, the scammer has had their credit card information for weeks.
Johnson says the scammers have been successful half the time. Out of 50 calls reported to the Sheriff’s Office, 25 people gave up their credit information.
Johnson reminds residents that law enforcement officers will never ask for their financial information like a credit-card number over the phone.
“There is no amount of money that can clear up a warrant,” he said.
There is only one way to handle a warrant, and that’s through the courts. It’s not a financial transaction. “Warrants get resolved by being served — by an arrest—or by being quashed by a judge.”
Johnson says if you get such a call, hang up and call police. The Montgomery County Police Department has a fraud unit and Johnson says the county police are investigating this case.
A similar scam was found to be operating out of a Georgia prison, where corrections officials and inmates were implicated. It is not clear that this is connected with that case according to Johnson.
Anyone who has been contacted by the scammer is asked to call Montgomery County police at 301-279-8000. Residents can find more information on the Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page.