Sheriff’s Office warns of phone scam in Beaufort

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The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office is alerting residents of a phone scam that has recently surfaced in our area. Yesterday the Sheriff’s Office fielded several reports from citizens concerned over phone calls they received from subject(s) identifying themselves as Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office deputies. In these calls, the subject reportedly attempted to solicit money from the victims, threatening legal action if the victims refused to comply.

Victims have reported similar encounters: the caller informs them that they owe a fine for failure to appear for jury duty. The victim is encouraged to provide credit card information to pay the fine, or risk being arrested. The fine amounts vary, as do the names of the deputy the caller claims to be.

This type of scam has been reported in recent months in jurisdictions throughout the country. The Federal Bureau of Investigations released warnings about this type of scam dating back as early as 2005. While the details may differ as the scam runs from area to area, the end result is the same: a victim is deceived into giving valuable and potentially harmful information to an unknown source.

The callers perpetrating these types of scams can be very persistent and intimidating. They may use legal/law enforcement jargon in combination with easily obtainable personal information about a victim to coerce them into believing they are speaking with an actual law enforcement officer. It is believed that these types of calls originate outside the local jurisdictions in which they occur, and quite possibly outside the country.

While it is common for deputies to make contact with citizens by phone for a number of reasons, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office does not solicit any financial information via phone. Satisfaction of any fines, debts, warrants, or other civil process will never require a citizen to release personal financial data by phone, e-mail or any other unsecured method of communication.

Anyone receiving a call of this nature is encouraged refrain from completing any transaction and to contact the Sheriff’s Office immediately. If you have concerns that you may have an outstanding legal issue requiring some type of payment, you may verify this by contacting the appropriate offices of the Beaufort County Courthouse.

For more information about this scam, as well as protecting yourself from other forms of fraud, visit the FBI’s website: http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety.