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Phone scam alert: Washoe County Sheriff’s Office warns residents

By Miriam Hodgman
Published: Last Updated on

WASHOE COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE NEWS RELEASE – This month, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office warns area residents about an emerging phone scam in the Washoe County area in which the scammers are posing as local law enforcement personnel to fraudulently obtain money from innocent victims.

“Residents of Washoe County need to be aware that there is a dangerous and disturbing new phone scam developing in our community,” Washoe County Undersheriff Tim Kuzanek said today. “Our Office has received a number of calls in the last couple of days about scammers, using names of legitimate law enforcement personnel, who use the threat of imprisonment unless the victim pays.”

The scam is called the “Arrest Warrant Scam” and Undersheriff Kuzanek said that scammers tend to target vulnerable people such as the elderly and those who are new to the country.

Scammers telephone potential victims and identify themselves as a representative from a local law enforcement agency such as the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office. They may represent themselves as being with other local law enforcement agencies as well.

The scammer tells the person there is a warrant out for their arrest for a certain amount of fine. The reason for the warrant is represented as being anything from a traffic violation to failure to pay full income tax requirements to the Internal Revenue Service.

The scammer then tells the potential victim that their options are either to surrender themselves to the Sheriff’s Office for arrest, or that they may pay a “reduced” payment of the fine to adjudicate the warrant.

The scammer then provides instruction on how the payment should be submitted, usually through an “eGift” cash card or similar payment to a specified account or name given by the caller.

These scam artists use pre-paid phones and many times are not even in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred, making their apprehension difficult.

“Although the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office will sometimes make calls to inform someone about a warrant, we never ask for payment over the phone or negotiate for payment in lieu of arrest,” Undersheriff Kuzanek said. “Anyone with questions about a warrant may call the courts and local law enforcement agencies. No agency in the region offers reduced rates or takes payments over the phone for warrants and fines.”

Undersheriff Kuzanek said anyone who has been a victim of this scam, or who receives such a call, is encouraged to take down as much information as possible, such as a name and call back number, without giving any information away. Then, immediately contact the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office at 775-785-WCSO (9276).

A scammer caught on recording: http://www.washoesheriff.com/resources/audio/1400019_TF90.mp3

The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office celebrated 150 years of proud service and community partnership in 2011. Sheriff Michael Haley is the 25th person elected to serve as the Sheriff of Washoe County. His office continues to be the only full service public safety agency operating within northern Nevada and is responsible for operating the consolidated detention facility, regional crime lab, Northern Nevada Counter Terrorism Center, Internet Crimes against Children Task Force, court security, service of civil process, traditional street patrols and Regional Animal Services.