Scammers pose as sheriff’s office deputy, target local resident

Published 6:47 pm Tuesday, July 23, 2019

A slip of the tongue tipped one local resident off to a would-be scammer who called her over the weekend, demanding money and threatening her arrest. The scammer falsely identified himself using the name of a Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office deputy, but made one critical mistake — mispronouncing the Beaufort in Beaufort County.

Instead of referring to the Beaufort (BOH-fert) County Sheriff’s Office, the scam caller used the common pronunciation associated with Beaufort (BYOO-fert) County, South Carolina.

“As soon as he identified himself, she began thinking immediately that this wasn’t legit,” BCSO 1st. Sgt. Brad Shackelford said.

The scammer told the potential victim that he had a warrant for her arrest for failing to appear for grand jury duty in federal court and proceeded to demand a credit card payment over the phone.

“She said, ‘I’ve got a better idea. Monday morning, I’ll come down to the Sheriff’s Office and take care of this,’” Shackelford said. “He said, ‘No, no, no, you don’t need to do that. We take care of these matters by phone.’ She did away with it at that time.”

While the targeted person did the right thing and hung up, Shackelford says these scams are happening more frequently, with scammers identifying themselves as representing various local agencies. According to a report from WITN, the same type of calls popped up in Pitt County in May, with someone identifying themselves as a Pitt County Sheriff’s Office deputy.

“They (residents) may possibly receive calls using either the Sheriff’s Office, or even possibly Washington PD or Belhaven PD,” Shackelford said. “They seem to be using different agencies in different areas.”

According to a BCSO press release on the incident, similar scams have targeted people with the following tactics:

  • There is a warrant for a person’s arrest because they did not pay your taxes or debts. The scammer will threaten arrest, unless they receive payment over the phone immediately with a debit or credit card.
  • A child/grandchild is in trouble and needs money immediately or they will go to jail.

In many cases, scammers are able to access a staggering amount of information on a person through the internet, right down to their address, phone number and the names of relatives — all ammunition that can be used to make a scam more believable.

“All you have to do is Google somebody,” Shackelford said. “… Access is great, but privacy has disappeared over time.”

The BCSO reminds the public that no legitimate law enforcement agency will ever call asking for money over the phone. Anyone contacted by someone claiming to be from a law enforcement agency and demanding money is advised to hang up and call the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office immediately at 252-946-7111 or their local law enforcement agency.