A Threatening Scam

Hayden Hollingsworth
Hayden Hollingsworth

Rarely does a day pass that you don’t receive several RoboCalls or an email that is obviously fraudulent. Here is a twist of which we should all be aware.

On answering the phone, a live person identifies himself as a lieutenant in the county sheriff’s department and confirms your name and address. He then says that you have received a letter ten days ago ordering you to appear to register for the NCSI Automated Data Base to be included in the available jury pool. He then informs you that since you failed to appear, he now holds a warrant for your arrest which he plans to “activate” if you fail to appear immediately and pay the fine.

Asking for his name and badge number, he will supply it, but any hint that you might hang up (as you should do) will be greeted by repeating the threat that you will be arrested unless the fine is paid that day.

What is the fine, one might inquire. $1928.09 is the answer; one thousand is for “failure to appear, the remainder court costs and handling fees.” Additionally, it cannot be paid by cash, check, debit, or credit card, but only by a money gram purchased from a CVS location.

Then comes the clincher: you are instructed to meet the caller at a designated location, which turned out to be the Roanoke City Police Station where you will be taken to a “special room” where the money gram will be scanned into the “NCSI Automated Data Bank,” you will be given a receipt to take to the city treasurer’s office where you will issued a check (because you have been so cooperative) in the amount you just paid. He will remain on the phone until the transaction is completed and if you hang up, and then the warrant will be “activated.”

Hanging up resulted in an instantaneous recall, three times, (he obviously thought he had a live one) which went unanswered. The final call was the announcement on voice mail that the case would be entered into “the noncompliant file.”

Any call purported to be from a law enforcement agency is an immediate attention grabber. In this particular scam there are many red flags, but in a moment of anxiety, one might over look them. First, there is no such thing as “registering for the jury pool.” Second, no letter was ever sent, let alone received. Third, warrants are served in person by a deputy of the sheriff’s office but you will be notified that one is forthcoming and you must be there to receive it. Fourth, a warrant about to be served cannot be aborted by paying a fine in advance of the service. Fifth, this payment method would be essentially non-traceable. Sixth, any conversation with the “Constable,” as he will identify himself when asked if he is a deputy will be laced with dire warnings if you hang up. Seventh, NCSI is a television program, not a real entity.

What to do? Hang up immediately and do not answer any call backs. If you do not hang up, things will escalate in a hurry leading to comments such as, “Don’t get smart with me or you’ll regret it.” The caller knows your name, your phone number, and your address. This is a criminal you do not want to make mad. Although one might think of many clever things to say, resist the temptation.

Fortunately, there are steps to take. Caller ID may give a number but remember the scammers have the ability to enter a bogus number or no number at all. Call the police department in your jurisdiction and report that you have received a threatening phone call. They will take down the information but the likelihood of them finding the culprit is small. He may be in California, despite the 540 area code.

There are laws against mail fraud, wire fraud, but telephone and email fraud, I’m not sure. That could be a hot button issue for any political candidate seeking an issue that everyone would support. Contacting the Commonwealth Attorney’s office has not clarified the situation since they, unlike the persistent scam artist, have not returned any calls. You should check out consumersunion.org. It’s an advocacy group that collects data for petitions to stop RoboCalls. I suspect ScammersRUs.com will soon be after them.

A final indignity was the comment by the police department that this is an old scam that has recently resurfaced and it is directed toward the elderly. With all the ingenuity involved in this, just think of the good that could accrue if the jerk applied it to a worthwhile project.

Hayden Hollingsworth