By Sheena Barnett
TUPELO – Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson is fighting a crime that’s gotten personal.
More than 15 people were called over the weekend by someone posing as an employee of the Lee County Sheriff’s Department or as Johnson himself. The caller says the person has failed to report for jury duty and there is a warrant out for their arrest, even providing a false case number. They are instructed to make a payment via a money card within one hour or they’ll be arrested.
“We do not contact people in this manner,” Johnson said. “This is a scam. It’s a very sophisticated, simple, believable thing.”
Johnson said the scammers are targeting the elderly, mostly women. They identify themselves as Sgt. Stone – there is no Sgt. Stone working at the Lee County Sheriff’s Department – and they request the money. They ask that the person go to a store and purchase a Green Dot Money card in an amount between $500-$1,000, and call them back and give them the card and pin numbers. Once that happens, Johnson said, they can transfer the victim’s money into any account, and it’s untraceable.
One victim asked the scam artist if they could to speak to Johnson, and the victim was put on hold and then put on the phone with someone who impersonated Johnson.
Two phone numbers – a local Verizon number and a number that has been traced to Georgia – have been used in connection with the crime.
Johnson called one number – (662) 214-2413. The scam artist identified himself as a Lee County Sheriff’s Department employee, and Johnson used a fictitious name and spoke with him for a few minutes. After Johnson identified himself as the actual Lee County Sheriff, the scam artist cursed at him and hung up.
Johnson tried to call that number back again on Monday afternoon, but the number was disconnected.
If you are called, Johnson suggests you pay attention to how the caller speaks, and write down the phone number if you have caller ID. Then, call 911 or the Sheriff’s Department at (662) 841-9040 and report the call.
“We do not do business that way,” Johnson said. “We, under no shape, form or fashion collect on a debt or warrant in that way.”