The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday, Nov. 30, began receiving several complaint calls from citizens regarding a telephone scam that had been circulating throughout the county. The scam caller threatens to have the citizen arrested if the citizen does not pay between $1,800 to $2,000 to the sheriff’s office, ostensibly for missing jury duty.
It is, of course, a false allegation but what concerns members of Morgan County law enforcement is the scammers are using both the names of Morgan County Sheriff’s Office employees and the names of local judges to reinforce the scam. Also, says Chief Deputy Keith Howard, the caller sounds local, too. “They don’t have an accent,” Howard says. “They sound very believable.”
The sheriff’s office has recorded several of the attempts. An initial call states that the scammer is a “Sgt. Campbell” and he is calling to inform the citizen that since they did not show up for jury duty a fine has been imposed.
The person is directed to get between $1,800 to $2,000 cash and drive to the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office and place the money in the Morgan County Detention Center’s kiosk. That kiosk is a way relatives and friends of persons incarcerated in the Morgan County Detention Center can get money to inmates to purchase commissary items.
Howard says no one has yet to arrive at the sheriff’s office to put the money in the kiosk and, he says, investigators are not sure how the scammer would retrieve the cash. Howard expects a confused citizen would call the scammer back and would be then given further instructions on how to send the cash.
If a caller does not answer they are told to call back, Howard says, and are then given a recorded message with an official sounding sheriff’s office directory. Once the caller punches extension 2, the attempt to scam the caller out of money begins in earnest.
The initial caller is a male’s voice and then a woman answers a return call to try to convince the caller to bring the cash to the jail.
Howard says so far no one has fallen for the scam but the localization of the names of the sheriff’s office employees has the department concerned. “What’s increased our interest is it doesn’t seem to be an overseas scam,” Howard says.
If you receive a call suggesting that you owe money for not attending jury duty or if a caller attempts to get you to pay money to not be arrested, Howard wants citizens to know that is not how the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, or the criminal justice system in general, operates.
“We will never call you and demand money,” he says. Howard says if a citizen gets a call that that sounds suspicious, it is best to hang up and block the number, if you can. “Don’t engage with these folks,” he says, “They are trained to separate you from your money.”
If you receive a call and want to report the scam, call the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office at (706) 342-1507. You can also make a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, consumer information division by going to: consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam_alerts