Along with other police agencies throughout the state, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office has begun to see another increase in fraud schemes involving the names of actual Sheriff’s Office Personnel. Over the past few weeks we have been made aware of several attempts to illegally solicit money by individuals claiming to work for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. Many of the victims did not initially dismiss the activity as a fraud attempt due to the suspect providing the name and rank of an actual Sheriff’s Office employee.
Victims reporting these crimes have indicated they were contacted by phone and were told they had missed a mandatory court appearance. They were instructed to send payments to avoid being arrested. In some instances, the suspect actually requested to meet in person with the victim after payment is made. The suspects in these crimes appeared to have done some research on their victims. Several victims have reported receiving the calls at both their home and place of business.
In order to minimize the amount of victims associated with these fraud schemes, the Sheriff’s Office has prepared the following tips and Sheriff’s Office practices for the public.
1. Members of the Sheriff’s Office are prohibited from directly accepting payments in any form for citations, warrants, or civil process. If you are asked to do otherwise, you should immediately report the incident to your local police agency or the Sheriff’s Office.
2. In an attempt to improve efficiency, our Civil Process Unit may contact a citizen to arrange service of court documents. If a citizen is concerned about the validity of a civil process attempt, they may contact the Sheriff’s Office or dispatch center. Either will be able to verify a deputy was in fact attempting to serve you with documents.
FRAUD PREVENTION TIPS
1. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be law enforcement, attempt to verify the phone number from which they are calling. Calls originating from the Sheriff’s Office will meet the following standard: Corrections (435)656-66xx Patrol (435)656-65xx. The number to our front office is (435)656-6500. Citizens may also verify the caller’s identity by contacting the Sheriff’s Office Dispatch at (435)634-5730.
2. If you are told you missed a court date, attempt to gather the name of the court and a case number so you can contact the court directly. If legitimate, this information should be readily available.
3. If you are instructed to contact the caller back at a specific number, do some research to verify the number is accurate. Suspects often will answer the phone number which they provided to a victim with an official greeting in an attempt to convince you the situation is legitimate.
4. Be suspicious of any individual requesting or demanding payment in lieu of arrest. Demanded payments are most likely an indicator of fraudulent activity. This is more suspicious if you are instructed to wire money or send pre-paid gift cards.
5. If you are contacted with a request for payment in lieu of arrest, contact police before sending any money. Although we will still investigate the incident if you have sent payment, it is often difficult to identify the suspects and/or recover the lost money.