Holladay woman has a warning about an elaborate phone scam

Posted at 10:10 PM, Aug 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-30 00:10:08-04

HOLLADAY, Utah - A Holladay woman has a warning for others, after she said she was nearly caught up in an elaborate scam that was so believable, she almost shelled out close to $1,000.

Cara O'Conner said it started when she had a missed call and voicemail Tuesday afternoon.

"This is Sgt. Scott Smith with the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office," the person in the voicemail said. "We're looking to get in contact with Cara O'Conner.  Ms. O'Conner, please give us a prompt call back at your earliest convenience."

"I went into panic mode," she said, upon hearing the voicemail.

She worried a family member was hurt, so she called the number back. The supposed Sgt. Smith answered, and told her some frightening news.

"I had violated a court order by not appearing for jury duty, and that there were two bench warrants out for my arrest," O'Conner explained.

While she didn't believe him at first, O'Conner said the man knew her personal information.

"They had my birthdate, they had my previous address, they knew my husband's name," she said.

The person had even called other family members, in an attempt to track her down.

"It was a very elaborate plan, down to them calling my brother-in-law," O'Conner said.

'Sgt. Smith' told her that she didn't owe any money, but would need to come down to the Unified Police station to sign paperwork to fix the situation.

"Having never broke the law before, it sounded really scary," she said. "I thought, 'You know what-- I just want to clear this up.'"

The two got off the phone, after Sgt. Smith told her he'd look into her file and call back.

An hour later, he called again, but this time to say she did owe money on two fines.

"He said, 'The first step is, you need to go out over to your bank and withdraw $990,'" O'Conner said, explaining what the man told her. She said he continued, "'If you go to a Rite Aid there's kiosks with these treasury vouchers," O'Conner explained.

She headed to the Rite Aid in Millcreek, and as she went to pay for the treasury vouchers at the register, a store manager stopped her.

"She said, 'You're being scammed. The second you walk out of here they're going to ask you for those numbers,'" O'Conner recounted.

Eventually she called the scammer out, and he hung up. O'Conner said she called police to report the situation.

"Immediately the guy is like, 'This is a scam. I've had 16 of these calls today,'" O'Conner said.

She said the officer told her that the scammers often use junk phone numbers that are impossible to track down.

While she's happy she was stopped, O'Conner said she worries others won't be so lucky. She said she hopes that in sharing her story, others will be aware of the unique ways they could get scammed.

Unified Police said the department has been seeing this scam circulating around the valley. They said they would never ask for money over the phone, and they don't handle court matters.

The best advice if you get this call? Don't give out any information. Hang up, and don't call back.