PORT ORCHARD — Phone calls alerting residents about outstanding warrants for their arrest are once again rattling unsuspecting victims in the area.
The calls purporting to be from the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office enlist an oldie-but-goodie in the world of scams: the threat to pay up or be prepared to be jailed.
“This is a classic scam that seems to live on and on,” sheriff’s office spokesman Deputy Scott Wilson said.
“Classic scams are such for a reason — because they work. There’s nothing like the possibility of an arrest to capture your attention and your money.”
Wilson said his office has received complaints that a person purporting to be a sheriff’s office representative has been phoning county residents to inform them of outstanding warrants for their arrest. The reasons for the warrants vary, he said, from missing jury duty to unpaid traffic infractions, to federal warrants issued by the Internal Revenue Service.
“These con artists have taken to using the names of actual law enforcement personnel, gleaned from readily available public documents or from social media.”
The rip-off criminals even go so far as to advise potential victims that they should appear in a courtroom on a specific time and date about a warrant. The caller then advises the victim that to avoid arrest and to erase, or quash, the warrant, they must pay a sum of money via a prepaid card, such as a Green Dot prepaid Visa or Mastercard debit card, MoneyPak card or another cash payment method.
“Those who have received these scams have reported that the caller sounds credible … believable,” Wilson said. “Their telephones indicate that the calls are originating from the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department,” a common scam manipulation.
The law enforcement spokesman said that, in fact, the sheriff’s office has no role in jury administration. Court services and jury administration are administered by the county clerk’s office and all communication about jury duty is sent to county residents in writing by U.S. postal mail. And warrants of arrest are not issued for failing to appear for jury duty service.
The sheriff’s office, he said, is not an agent for the IRS — or any other branch of the federal government. The IRS does not initiate communication to taxpayers over the telephone but through the U.S. Postal Service.
Outstanding warrants of arrest are handled in person by uniformed law enforcement personnel. Warrants are also not “erased” or “quashed” by submission of a prepaid credit card.
For residents worried about future telephone scams, Wilson urged people to never send money in any form — check, prepaid card, money order, gift card or cash — to individuals you don’t personally know or those with whom you haven’t entered into a business relationship.