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Harford sheriff's office warns of scam involving payment to avoid arrest

The Harford County Sheriff's Office is warning Harford County residents to be on the alert for scammers claiming to be sheriff's deputies.
The Harford County Sheriff's Office is warning Harford County residents to be on the alert for scammers claiming to be sheriff's deputies. (Aegis File photo)

The Harford County Sheriff's Office is warning county residents to be aware of an ongoing scam, which involves unsuspecting people being tricked into giving money to a scammer who claims to be a sheriff's deputy.

The suspected scammer has been calling residents and telling them an arrest warrant has been issued for them; he gives them a chance to pay a fine instead of going to jail, according to a news release from the sheriff's office.

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The fine is paid by putting the money on a prepaid debit or credit card, which can be obtained at grocery or convenience stores, and then the victim gives the scammer the card codes needed to access the money.

Cristie Kahler, spokeswoman for the sheriff's office, said victims are often told the warrant has been issued because they missed jury duty.

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She said the sheriff's office has been inundated in recent days with calls from concerned residents about the scam, and one person reported losing money Wednesday.

Kahler said some warrants with a monetary value are served, but "we would never call you on the phone and make arrangements for that payment to be made over the phone with a prepaid debit card."

She said a judge has the option of either issuing a bench warrant or sending written notification to a person who has missed jury duty.

"More than likely, you're going to get documentation through the mail, or someone's going to come to your house in person," Kahler said.

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She said the first wave of this scam took place during the summer, and a second wave came through this week.

Kahler said anyone who receives a call from the suspected scammer, who has been using several fake names, should not call the number that appears on their caller ID.

Instead, they should look up the phone number of the agency and then call and ask if there is an active warrant, or if they owe money to that agency.

Similar scams have taken place with the caller posing as a representative of the Internal Revenue Service or the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration.

"If you re-call the number that pops up on the caller ID, the scam just continues," Kahler explained.

She said victims of the sheriff's deputy scam have lost money ranging from a few hundred dollars to as much as $1,200.

Kahler said residents who are visited by a representative of the sheriff's office or another agency have the right to ask for identification and contact their agency to verify it.

Deputies should provide their badge numbers and identification.

"You should be able to recognize that they are a representative of that agency and verify that information if you need to," Kahler said.

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