Fraudsters impersonating sheriff’s deputies demand money to stay out of jail

Composite image. Main image by Ja_inter/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images, St. George News

WASHINGTON COUNTY — The Washington County Sheriff’s Office is advising residents to be aware of recent phone scams involving fraudsters impersonating police in an attempt to get money, a trend they say is on the rise in Utah.

In a news release issued Thursday, Washington County Sheriff’s Lt. David Crouse said fraud schemes that involve impersonating a police officer “are on the rise across the state.”

“Over the past few weeks we have been made aware of several attempts to illegally solicit money by individuals claiming to work for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office,” the statement said.

Stock image | St. George News

Victims who have contacted police to report the crimes indicated they were contacted by phone and told they missed a mandatory court appearance, and that payment was required to avoid being arrested.

The victim is then given instructions to send the payment, and in some instances, the fraudster then requests to meet with the victim after payment has been made.

“The suspects in these crimes appear to have done some research on their victims,” the release said, adding that victims have reported receiving the fraudulent calls at their residence as well as their place of employment.

In some instances, scammers even provided the name and rank of an actual employee of the Sheriff’s Office, giving the victim reason to believe it was a legitimate call from police, at least initially.

Crouse told St. George News this was the case in the most recent report received by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday, the same day the alert was released.

The sad thing is the callers are using the name of a deputy that is well-known to the public, which puts the victims at ease,” Crouse said, “when instead it should sound the alarm that it’s a scam.”

The loss associated with the recent report was in the thousands of dollars, he said.

Sheriff and police agencies do not call demanding payment of fines or bail, the Sheriff’s Office said in its alert, adding that anyone who receives a call from someone asking to be sent cash or Western Union funds should hang up and call local law enforcement.

Washington County Sheriff’s Office personnel are prohibited from directly accepting payments in any form for citations, warrants or civil process.

The department’s civil division may contact an individual by phone to make arrangement for the service of court documents but is not allowed to demand payment for those services.

In response, the agency has released a list of fraud prevention tips to protect the public, as well as prevent further losses.

Fraud prevention tips

  • If you receive a call from someone claiming to be law enforcement, attempt to verify the number they are calling from.
  • If told you missed a court date, ask for the court name and case number, then call the court directly.
  • Information is readily available if a call is legitimate.
  • Research any callback numbers provided by the caller to make sure the number is assigned to the appropriate agency.
  • Be suspicious of any individual requesting or demanding payment in lieu of arrest.
  • Any demand for immediate payment can be a likely indicator of fraudulent activity.
  • Be suspicious of any call instructing to wire money or send prepaid gift cards.
  • When in doubt, contact police before sending any money.

While any report of fraudulent activity will be investigated by police, if is often difficult to identify the suspects and/or recover the money lost.

Tips or reports can be made to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office at 435-656-6500 or the nonemergency dispatch line at 435-634-5730.

Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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7 Comments

  • DRT May 18, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    My response to a phone call like that would simply be “screw you. Come and get me.”

    • NotSoFast May 18, 2018 at 4:47 pm

      Ha, I was thinking on the same line. But being partial to NYC slang, ‘Stick it’ comes across with more meaning.

  • Striker4 May 18, 2018 at 11:09 pm

    I always tell them lock and load. come get me …… but because this is St George news I can’t post the other thing I tell them…..LOL and it isn’t. ( have a nice day )

    • comments May 19, 2018 at 8:20 pm

      Is the other thing you say “mommy mommy help me waah wah wah mommy”?

      Poor ol’ Dump 😉

  • Mike P May 19, 2018 at 8:53 am

    What I find disturbing is people actually fall for this scam

    • comments May 20, 2018 at 5:13 pm

      lol mike, don’t ever underestimate the stupidity of the american public.

  • scooper May 25, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    Thanks for sharing this information. I have also received some calls from 289-919-5517 since few days ago. I didn’t answer those calls, though. I checked the number on Google and found some people recently filed complaints at http://www.whycall.me/289-919-5517.html. Thank God. I blocked the number then.

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