Deputies with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office investigated a fraudulent phone call on Monday. A woman received a call during which the caller, identifying themselves as a Deputy, advised her she had two outstanding warrants. The caller claimed the woman could resolve the warrants by purchasing gift cards and bringing them to the Sheriff’s Office. The caller said they could meet in the parking lot.
“These calls occur frequently,” said Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood. “Sometimes the caller will say the person has outstanding warrants. Other times, the allegation is the victim missed jury duty and must pay a fine to avoid arrest. However, there is no criminal or court matter that can be resolved with gift cards.”
The woman on Monday fortunately recognized the call as a scam. However, these calls are sometimes successful. The caller usually identifies him or herself, using the name and rank of an actual employee of the Sheriff’s Office. Sometimes he or she states a rank and gives a common name such as Jones or Roberts. In this particular incident, the caller did the latter, and provided two phone numbers – one connected with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and a second unaffiliated number.
If the person receiving the call uses the internet to check the first number, he or she would learn the number is valid, which might seem to authenticate the call. If he or she calls the second number, which is not a Sheriff’s Office phone line, an automated system falsely claiming to be the Sheriff’s Office answers. After navigating a series of prompts such as “Press 1 to reach the Outstanding Warrant Division,” the victim is again told there are warrants against him or her. Often the victim is told the gift cards must be purchased and delivered within a narrow window of time in order to avoid arrest. Some people become so anxious they fall into the trap.
“This is a sophisticated scam, and it is used around the nation,” said Blackwood. “Again, I want people to know gift cards never settle legal matters and calls to our office are always answered 24 hours a day. We do not have a prompt system.”
Anyone who receives such a call and is concerned that it might be legitimate is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at (919) 245-2900 for reassurance.