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Criminals Still Duping Victims Using Fake Threats

In case anyone has forgotten, it’s still super important to be on the lookout for phone calls made to unsuspecting residents by criminals looking to steal thousands of dollars from you.
Recently, April 21, a New Smyrna Beach man reported to us that someone called him pretending to be a law enforcement officer and threatened him with arrest, stating he had missed a court appearance earlier that day. The caller told the victim he had a warrant for his arrest, naming the judge he had failed to appear before, and identifying himself as a sergeant with our agency—the Volusia Sheriff’s Office.

The victim was given a case number and told he would have to serve three days in jail if he did not send $1,200 electronically right away to resolve the missed court appearance.
In a flash, the victim sent the money, believing it was legitimate because he actually has a minor civil court issue pending. Shortly after he sent the amount, the victim received a second call stating he also owed almost $500 in court fees.

That’s when the victim had had enough, hung up and reported the incident to his bank’s fraud department and to us. We have launched a criminal investigation into this case.
It’s easy to see how someone can fall for these types of fraud calls. The bad guys continue to sharpen their skills, providing names and case numbers, and unfortunately, preying on people who might just believe them.
Sometimes these criminals reach victims directly; in this case, the caller left an up-setting voicemail message for the victim, directing him to call “Sergeant Mills” at the Sheriff’s Office.

Whether it’s a call from someone pretending to be from our agency—we’ve seen plenty, unfortunately—or imposters saying they’re from the IRS, FBI, Homeland Security, city or county agencies, anyone with a drop of integrity doesn’t operate through intimidation. We don’t call people to threaten them with arrest. That’s just not how we operate.

My purpose in telling readers this story is to remind you that these cases continue to happen in Volusia County and elsewhere.

Victims, you’re not alone: People of all ages in our community report fraud cases to us nearly every week. Criminals think up new ways to rob trusting individuals using all kinds of scams like this one.
You can help us thwart scammers by knowing what to look for and how to avoid becoming a crime victim.
Avoid Becoming A Victim. Here are some signs of common scams:

  • Unsolicited phone calls or emails;
  • High-pressure tactics;
  • Threats of loss (or arrest) if you don’t take immediate action. I can’t stress it enough: Legitimate law enforcement agencies such as ours, the IRS, and the FBI, among others—do not threaten people with arrest over the phone. Don’t fall for it.
  • Requests for immediate payment by wire transfer, credit, prepaid debit, or especially gift cards.
  • Never provide your personal financial in-formation over the phone or online un-less you trust the person who’s asking.

Family Members: Please watch out for your parents or grandparents to help them avoid falling victim to these crimes. It’s your responsibility too.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s website offers helpful information about common scams. One program is Scams At A Glance and includes downloadable brochures in English and Spanish to teach consumers how to avoid becoming a fraud victim. The other program is Consumer Alert. To view recent Consumer Alerts, visit MyFloridaLegal. com/ConsumerAlert

If you have any doubt or think you may have become a victim of fraud, call us right away: Call the Sheriff’s Office non-emergency number, 386.248.1777 or 911 in an emergency. We’re here to help.

Please stay smart and stay safe,
Sheriff Mike Chitwood