AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) — The Augusta County Sheriff's Office is once again letting everyone know that a phone call in which someone claims to be with their office and asks for money is a scam — as any scenario like that always will be.
The scam goes like this.
You get a phone call, and the caller claims to be with the sheriff's office (It may be the ACSO or it may be whatever your local law enforcement is), telling you that they have a warrant for your arrest.
It's usually for a reason that your first instinct may be to wonder if you missed something important, like telling you you missed jury duty or failed to answer a subpoena.
Sometimes they may identify themselves as a randomly chosen position and name, like "Lt. Solcomb," which was used by scammers last year, despite the fact that the sheriff's office employs no one by that name.
The number that shows up on your phone could be a number 'spoofed' to look like it's coming from a 540 area code, or it could even be made to look like it's coming from the sheriff's office.
Once you're told that there's a warrant out for you, the caller lets you know you'll only be arrested if you don't pay a certain amount.
A lot of scammers in these kinds of calls may even pretend to transfer you to the "Sheriff," who is really someone else or the same person carrying out the scam, but the calls always end the same way.
The caller will instruct you to purchase some kind of gift card – usually either a green dot card (a kind of prepaid credit card) or a VISA card in very specific amounts – and then call them back with the numbers or mail the cards and receipts to provide payment.
If you go through with providing the numbers for payment, they may also ask you to bring the card to the Sheriff's Office for verification, but by the time you'd make it there, the money will be gone.
It's extremely difficult to refund money that's added to such gift cards, which is why that's almost always the request from scammers.
But the Augusta County Sheriff's Office, or any police department, will never call you to ask you to provide finances of any sort to them under the threat of arrest. If you're ever unsure about the legitimacy of a call from someone claiming to be law enforcement, hang up and then call your local law enforcement agency directly.
Do not buy a credit card in response to this call and do not provide any information.
The Winchester Police Department offers the below tips to help avoid falling victim to a telephone scam:
• Be suspicious of callers who demand immediate payments.
• Never give out personal or financial information to unsolicited callers, including: account numbers, social security numbers, passwords or other identifying information.
• Never wire money, provide debt or credit card numbers or Green Dot MoneyPak card numbers to someone you do not know.
• If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency seeking personal information, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement or agency's website to verify the authenticity of the request.
• Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t know. With spoofing becoming more common, question the number on the caller ID. Be cautious and verify the person on the other end of the phone.
• Don’t be afraid to tell the caller you need time to think about your decision. Talk with a trusted friend, family member, or call your department.
You can learn more about scams affecting our area here.