A new scam has made its way into Northwest Arkansas. It`s a scam that authorities say is making its way across the United States.
Original 911 calls obtained by 5NEWS alert authorities to the problem.
A scammer identifying himself as a deputy is calling potential victims, telling them they need to hand over money in order to pay overdue legal fees.
“I just had a phone call from a gentleman who said he`s a sheriff`s deputy,” one woman told a dispatcher. “He told me I had a warrant out for my arrest, because I didn`t show up for jury duty.”
The woman on the call continued to explain that she never missed jury duty, and that she told the man on the phone she didn’t believe him.
Washington County Sheriff’s Office later received a similar 911 call. This time, it was from an attorney whose client had received the same call.
“They told him to go down and get $1,100,” the attorney says in the tape.
Both 911 callers said the scammer claimed to be a Washington County deputy, and that they wanted their potential victims to transfer money to their account.
Although this may seem like a clear scam to many, deputies say the one thing that makes it believable is that the con artists use the real names of local law enforcement officials.
The con artists have done their homework. They used the name of Chief Deputy Jay Cantrell. And when one 911 caller asked to speak to a supervisor, the scammer put someone claiming to be Major Rick Hoyt on the phone.
Both of those men are real law enforcement officials. However, they tell 5NEWS it wasn’t them who made the call.
“It gets kind of personal when they actually use your name,” Chief Deputy Cantrell said. “It did take me by surprise that someone would use my name.”
Major Hoyt said it must have been easy for scammers to take his identity.
“Our agency, and other agencies, have now become so transparent that we put our names, our pictures and so forth, on our website,” Major Hoyt said.
Officials say they would never ask someone to pay money directly to a deputy
“If [potential victims] have any doubts that it`s from a real agency, they either need to call the agency, or they need to go down to the agency,” Major Hoyt said. “Or, tell the person that`s calling them `if you`re real, I’ll meet you down in the lobby of your police agency`.”
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the calls.
The scammers didn’t block their numbers when calling people, the area code listed in both incidents was 479.
The scammers also had a name listed in the caller ID.
Due to the ongoing investigation, authorities have requested that 5NEWS not release the phone number, or name, associated with the calls.
Meanwhile, authorities urge people to be cautious.
“It`s pretty disheartening that someone would stoop that low to do that” Chief Deputy Cantrell said.
“Beware when you answer your phone,” Major Hoyt said.