YORK COUNTY, S.C. — The York County Sheriff's Office is sending out an alert: Someone is pretending to be one of its deputies and threatening people with an arrest warrant unless they pay up.
The scammer tells potential victims they have a warrant for their arrest. The fraudster said they need to send money, usually via a Green Dot card, to avoid being arrested.
The scam is often successful because the person claims to be a deputy and sounds official over the phone. In the scam, the number that appears on the target’s cellphone is the legitimate main number for the Sheriff's Office. It is called spoofing and it's become a common practice for scammers.
"They can make it seem like it's coming from us, but it's not us," Deputy Trent Faris, spokesman for the York County Sheriff's Office. "It's frustrating because people are being tricked."
The best defense may be what Michelle Burch does to protect herself.
"If I don't recognize the number, I don't answer it," Burch said.
In this case, the scammer claimed to be York County Sgt. Jason Cook, but no such deputy exists. The person behind the scam left a number to call on a voice mail. When investigators called that number and spoke to the man claiming to be one of them, the scammer reacted.
"When (the investigator) told (the scammer,) 'No, I work for the York County Sheriff's Office,’ that's when the scammer got upset. (The scammer) started yelling at (the investigator,) started cussing at him. (The scammer) told him he hated cops and so on and so forth and then hung up," Faris said.
The Sheriff's Office will never call you, threaten you with an arrest warrant or demand money. Still, the trick often works, especially when the phone number appears to be legitimate. This scam even connected callers to a phone tree, allowing you to press "1" to speak to a deputy or another number to reach someone else.
Catching scammers is difficult for several reasons. First, the calls are rarely local and are usually not even made from inside the U.S. Secondly, the numbers people see on their phones are not the actual numbers the perpetrators are calling from, which makes tracing the calls very difficult. That's why local police agencies focus on alerting people, so they don't fall victim to them.
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