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Howard police warn of grand jury subpoena phone scam

Howard County police are investigating a series of telephone scams after receiving nearly 20 complaints from residents who claim that the scammer is asking for money as a law enforcement official from the Howard County Sheriff's Office.

In calls received over the last few weeks, police said, the caller is telling residents that a warrant for their arrest has been issued because they failed to appear for a grand jury subpoena. He then tells residents that unless they pay a fine using a pre-paid debit card, their driver's license will also be suspended.

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Spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said the Howard Police Department is involved in the investigation because of its criminal aspect, as the sheriff's office is a separate agency that works court security and serving court warrants.

"Local police and sheriff's officials do not contact individuals via phone to explain that there is legal action against them for any reason," Llewellyn said in the press release. "They also will never ask for payment over the phone or offer to negotiate a reduced payment in lieu of arrest."

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As residents begin spring yard work and maintenance, Howard County police are asking the community to be aware of potential solicitation scams, including home improvement and tree trimming.

During police investigation, officers found that one victim paid the scammer $900. Police said residents should take precautions and inform family members, friends or neighbors of the scam.

The police have provided the following additional tips:

• Be wary of unsolicited phone calls.

• Don't allow a caller to threaten or scare you into taking immediate action.

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• Refrain from sharing personal or financial information over the phone.

• Never send money (via wire or pre-paid debit card) to someone you don't know.

Police are asking any scam victims to contact them at 410-313-2200. If residents have any information about this scam, contact 410-313-STOP or HCPDcrimetips@howardcountymd.gov.

For more information on other types of scams, go to howardcountymd.gov/consumer.

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