Escambia County authorities have no choice but to get involved in the latest scam attempt being perpetrated across the county. The law enforcement involvement can’t be helped because the scam artists are pretending to be from the sheriff’s office.
ECSO Chief Deputy Mike Lambert said Wednesday that the latest phone scam entails the caller telling the intended victim that sheriff’s office records show that he or she owes a fine and must pay it within 48 hours or face arrest.
The bogus ECSO spokesman reportedly tells the person on the phone that the only way to avoid arrest is to purchase a money order to cover the fine and any court fees. The total usually comes to around $200, “an amount most people can come up with if they had to,” Lambert said.
The final step in the scam is to instruct that the money order be sent to the sheriff’s office at an address that is furnished by the caller, who again throws a reminder that jail time will result from a failure to pay the fine and fees.
He or she then provides a call-back phone number – that of the sheriff’s substation in the satellite courthouse in Atmore – in case there are any questions. Most people who dial the number hang up when someone from the sheriff’s office answers, confident that the original call was legitimate, and purchase the money orders.
Lambert noted that the sheriff’s office does not collect fines or court fees, that such payments are made through the state’s online system or at the Circuit Clerk’s office in the county courthouse.
“It’s all a scam,” the chief deputy said. “Even if we did collect fines at the sheriff’s office, we wouldn’t call to tell people they need to come in and pay.”