By JB Clark
TUPELO – By now, most email users know there isn’t really a member of an East African royal family trying to hide $1 million in jewel profits in their bank account for safekeeping while the family’s land is being invaded.
Foreign email and phone scams from banks and credit card companies are well established. But a new phone scam in Mississippi has a scammer posing as a local law enforcement agency asking people to pay their outstanding fines or face an arrest.
This scam is a little more believable when the caller gives a badge number or has somehow disguised his phone number as the agency he claims to be from.
Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said two or three times each day his office receives reports from people checking on the authenticity of a call threatening their arrest.
He said his department is reporting each instance to the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office where they have seen many different instances of what they call the “emergency scam” in which victims are forced to respond quickly due to the fictional emergency situation.
“I can tell you this, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t do business over the phone in order to collect fines,” Johnson said. “We don’t even take credit cards and we’re certainly not taking a payment over the phone.”
Johnson said the scam usually starts with a call from a number that says it is registered to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office or District Attorney’s Office.
“They are saying there is a warrant out for your arrest and you need to make arrangements to pay it on a credit card or debit card,” Johnson said. “They are posing as a representative of the sheriff’s office saying a deputy will come arrest them within the hour if they don’t pay the fine and the caller ID number is showing up as the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.”
The Mississippi Attorney General’s Office advises that no one should ever give out their credit card number or the three-digit identification number on the back of the car during a call they did not initiate.