A scam based on false threats of arrest is still circulating the Triangle, months after it came to public notice.
In the scam, callers claim that they have warrants for the arrest of their would-be victims, whom they often identify by name.
Generally, people receiving the call are asked to send money to avoid arrest. Some perpetrators even use tricks to make it appear they’re calling from numbers of local law enforcement offices, and some adopt real officers’ names.
“I came home to a phone message that an arrest warrant was out for me,” said Dorothy Karpow, 65, a nurse who lives in North Raleigh. “They had my name, so I called the police.”
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On the voicemail message, a man with a thick accent, claiming to be “Officer Morgan from Criminal Investigations,” gave her a number to call and warned of her arrest.
When a reporter called the number, a woman identifying herself as an officer answered and claimed to be a member of the Treasury Department’s criminal investigations unit.
“If you type our information into Google, you will find each and every information,” she said.
When asked if the matter was a scam, the supposed officer warned that things wouldn’t go favorably for the caller.
“You’re going to come to know what happens in the next half an hour,” the woman said. “The police officers will be at your doorstep to handcuff you and detain you for the next 24 hours. After that you will be sent-ed to a detention center.”
When Karpow called the real police, they assured her that it was a scam.
“I listened to this thing, and it just freaked me,” she said.
The Wake County Sheriff’s Office noticed such calls coming in about six months ago and issued a public notice about them in March.
Sheriff Donnie Harrison said Thursday that the scam comes in a few varieties. In one case, he said, a caller told a woman in Wake County that she had run a red light and failed to appear in court.
The caller asked the woman to send about $300 through a Wal-Mart service, Harrison said.
In other instances, the caller might claim that the would-be victim missed jury duty and needs to send in money. In Durham, a man appearing to call from the Durham County Sheriff’s Office warns of an arrest warrant and asks for payment through a prepaid card.
A real “law-enforcement officer is not going to call you and say all that,” Harrison said. “We don’t collect money. … That’s just not the way it works.”
Any exchange of money would happen with a judicial official, such as a magistrate, he said.
If you receive such a call, Harrison said, “either hang up or try to get some information.”
The calls hit Wake County in waves, Harrison said, often dying down following media coverage. The Sheriff’s Office has opened several investigations, but none have resulted in arrests, he said.
“They sound really convincing, and they’re really pushing,” he said.