Victims lose hundreds to con artists pretending to be cops

MARION, OH (WCMH) — Real officers’ identities used to hoodwink victims; thousands stolen

Over the past two days, three people in Marion County have had $1,200 stolen from them by con artists claiming to be Sheriff’s deputies.

The scheme starts with a phone call to the victim where the impersonator tells the victim there has been a warrant issued for their arrest for failing to show up for jury duty.

According to the Better Business Bureau, the FBI issued a warning about a similar scheme back in January.

However, unlike that scheme where personal information like social security numbers and bank accounts were sought; this current scheme is just going after people’s money.

One of the Marion County victims, we’ll call them Pat, denied missing jury duty or receiving the notice in the mail. The impersonators immediately told her they had the notice in front of them and read it to her over the phone.

The fictitious letter was allegedly from Judge Teresa Ballinger, and according to Pat sounded identical to previous jury summons she’d received in the past.

Adding to the reality of the situation, Pat described the impersonator as polite; something she expected a sheriff’s deputy to be. And they even used the real name of a current sheriff’s deputy.

Once the fake deputy had Pat convinced the call was real he dialed up her fear factor by claiming she would be arrested in her driveway by the authorities if she didn’t pay the fine associated with her warrant.

Not wanting to endure such public humiliation, a distraught Pat agreed to pay.

The caller then directed her to go to the bank and withdraw the money. She could then go to the store and buy Money Pak cards that could be used to pay the fine.

He even provided her with addresses and phone numbers for the stores to make the purchases at.

After she made the initial purchases and provided him with the numbers for the cards, he claimed to have the cards didn’t work and she’d have to buy more.

At first, Pat didn’t want to do it but eventually gave in. Only this time the clerk stopped her when she realized Pat was being scammed.

Then the real sheriff’s office got involved. Working with a victim of the scheme, Lt. Christy Utley called the phone number used by the impersonators.

Eventually they answered but she was unable to secure the information she needed to find their location or true identity.

Since victims started coming forward, the sheriff’s office has been asking local retailers to keep an eye out for people who are potentially being fooled by this scheme. All of them have agreed to do so.

Meanwhile, the sheriff’s office says they will never seek payment over the phone, or call to inform you there is a warrant for your arrest.

According to Lt. Utley, schemes like this can be very sophisticated and the thieves are cunning. She says don’t trust any number you’re given by them to call for verification purposes; con artists can set up voicemail to sound very official.

You should only call numbers you get from the phone book or a trusted website. Finally, the sheriff’s office wants people to make sure the seniors in their lives know about and understand these schemes and how they work.

As for Pat, it’s unlikely she will get her money back. Having learned from this ordeal, she just wants to help others avoid the mistakes she made.

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