The varied functions performed by the typical Sheriff’s Office make an attractive facade for police impersonators. The Sheriff’s Office collects on state tax warrants, administrates sheriff’s sales on foreclosed property, carries out evictions, serves arrest warrants, delivers civil process, executes court orders, maintains the sex offender registry, operates the jail and cares for the prisoners therein, and processes handgun permit applications. With all these responsibilities and more, there is no limit to the number of scams a Sheriff’s Office impersonator can come up with.
The most common scams are carried out over the phone. A fake sheriff’s deputy will call a potential victim and request immediate payment for a variety of fees, usually linked to one of the official duties listed above. Frequently the impersonator will say that payment is needed to resolve a legal matter, such as failing to report for jury duty or failing to pay back taxes. The crooks invariably demand payment in the form of prepaid visa cards or money cards, almost never asking to meet in person.
Sheriff Dave Wedding explained, “At no time would a member of the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office call someone to demand payment. If someone says they are from the Sheriff’s Office and asks for money, request their name and badge number and then call the Sheriff’s Office directly.”
Demanding a specific form of payment, like a prepaid visa card or iTunes gift card, is a clear indicator of fraud. Do not trust your caller ID as this can easily be spoofed to make a call appear legitimate.
Under no circumstances would a sheriff’s deputy request payment in order to obtain the dismissal of misdemeanor or felony warrant. Sheriff’s deputies never call to offer payment options to someone being sought on an arrest warrant. Fees should always be mailed or delivered DIRECTLY to the Sheriff’s Office and only in the form of a cashier’s check or money order. Bonds can be paid via credit card, but only through the Sheriff’s Office authorized provider.