WASHINGTON COUNTY, Utah — The Washington County Sheriff’s Office is warning residents about an increase in fraud calls from scammers who use the names and ranks of actual sheriff’s office personnel.
The sheriff’s office says they have received several tips about scams calls where the caller attempted to solicit money by claiming to work for the office and giving the name and rank of an actual employee.
Those affected say the callers tell them they have missed a court appearance and are instructed to send payments or face arrest. The sheriff’s office says it appears the scammers have done some research on their victims and have contacted some of them both at their home and their place of business.
The sheriff’s office released details about their practices and tips for avoiding fraud:
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 Division 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)656-66?? Patrol (435)656-65?? 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.