LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Sheriff’s Office is warning residents about a telephone scam during which callers claim to be law enforcement officers ordering people to pay up or be arrested.
“It’s happened in the past and is happening now, and in neighboring counties,” Sheriff Ken Sealey said Wednesday. “I got a call about the scam yesterday. The scammers have identified themselves as me, Maj. Howard Branch, Capt. James Miller and Capt. Robert Brown from our office.”
This scam uses fear as a tactic to coax residents into paying money to avoid arrest for failure to appear, contempt of court, or for either outstanding warrants or skipping out on jury duty, according to information from the Sheriff’s Office.
The scammers tell unsuspecting victims that a warrant has been issued for their arrest, Sealey said. Once the victim of the scam is hooked, they are instructed to load $1,000 onto a prepaid calling card.
“We’ve also had callers stating they have received a call about missing jury duty,” Sealey said. “They were advised to go to the Dollar General on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Lumberton, purchase a card, load it and give the code on the back of the card to the scammer.”
Calls from concerned residents have been made to the Robeson County Clerk of Court’s office, said Shelena Smith, clerk of Superior Court.
“They were told that if it wasn’t done before a certain time, in most cases it was 11 p.m., that they would be arrested. That is not procedures followed by the clerk’s office,” she said. “We do issue jury summons. However, if you miss court it is up to the judge to issue an order of arrest. We would never, at any time, call to ask you to pay money.”
One caller almost gave in and sent money because she believed she missed jury duty.
“She said she thought long and hard about sending the money because she feared going to jail,” Smith said. “But it didn’t seem legit. This has happened in Cumberland, Richland and Wilson counties, that I am aware of. This has been statewide. These are very savvy criminals.”
Anyone who is contacted by the scammers should call the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office at 1-877-5-NO-Scam (1-877-566-7226), Smith said. Any correspondence coming from the courthouse will never be via email or telephone call.
Smith advises anyone who receives this type of call should write down the name used by the caller and any information given by the caller, such as a telephone number and payment instructions.
“Getting as much information as possible is important,” Smith said. “Once you get the information, do not engage with the phone scammer anymore. Ignore the calls.”
Do not send any money to anyone claiming to be law enforcement, Sheriff Sealey said. If an order for arrest is issued, a sheriff’s deputy will serve the order in person.
“This is a matter we take very serious, when impersonating a law enforcement officer and obtaining money by false pretense,” Sealey said.
Anyone with information about the scam is asked to call and ask for Sheriff Sealey at 910-671-3106 or 910-671-3170.
Reach Annick Joseph by calling 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected] or Facebook Annick MultiMedia Journalist.