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Scam Alert: County Sheriff Impostor Calls
Cuyahoga County residents should be on alert against convincing live scam calls in which a man claiming to be a Cuyahoga County deputy threatens people with immediate arrest unless they pay off a warrant.
The Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs and Cuyahoga County Sheriff, who work together in the county’s Scam Squad task force, are issuing the warning in response to multiple inquiries over the weekend from people trying to verify the calls.
“These calls use many subtle cues calculated to make people believe they are really in trouble with the law,” said Sheryl Harris, Director of the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs. “The scammer asks for the victim by name. He gives fake badge and citation numbers. He invites people to call him back at a 216 number. The recording that answers that line sounds plausible – it even directs people who have a real emergency to dial 911.”
In the latest version of the scam, a male scammer using a 216 number claims to be “Lt. Brown.” He tells people that unless they pay a civil fine, deputies will be dispatched to arrest them. The caller directs would-be victims to go to specific stores near them to buy Green Dot cards – which is not a form of payment police accept.
The caller, who has demanded amounts ranging from $1,500 to $2,900, tries to stay on the phone with those targeted until they purchase the cards. Some would-be victims said they were on the phone for as long as half an hour.
When people call back the number that appears on their caller ID, they hear a professional-sounding recording telling them they’ve reached the “Sheriff’s Office Civil Warrants and Citations Division.” The Sheriff’s Department does not have a division with that name.
Consumer Affairs and the Sheriff want residents to know that law enforcement agencies:
“We are asking our residents to stay vigilant,” said Cuyahoga County Sheriff Cliff Pinkney. “We are investigating this crime, and we will prosecute the criminal or criminals behind it to the fullest extent of the law."
Residents can report this or any similar call to the Department of Consumer Affairs at 216-443-7035 or the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department at 216-443-6000. Anyone who lost money to this scam should contact the sheriff.
- Never call people to warn them of an impending arrest.
- Do not ask people for payment to stop an arrest.
- Do not accept payment via money wires, gift cards or Green Dot cards.
The Department of Consumer Affairs’ mission is to make sure people who live or shop in Cuyahoga County get what they pay for.