BELLEVILLE, Ill. – Amy Johnson from Belleville handed over $600 to a scammer pretending to be a sheriff’s deputy, telling her she had to pay up or face arrest.
Sheriff’s departments in both St. Clair County and the City of St Louis issued a warning to residents to watch out for the scam but it came too late for Johnson.
The scammer told Johnson she’d failed to appear for a federal grand jury summons on Aug. 22. The person warned her that if she hung up the phone, a warrant would be issued for her arrest.
St. Clair County has received at least three calls from the scammers.
Fraudsters have also reached a number of callers with the same scam in St. Louis City.
“He’s pretending to be a deputy sheriff. He’s using deputy sheriff names,” St. Louis Sheriff Vernon Betts said. “So far, we know that in one situation somebody gave him $7,000, and in another situation, we know that he’s gotten $2,000, we think, twice from two different people.”
The sheriff said a lot more people have been called.
“We know 11 times now we’ve gotten people complaining about somebody from the sheriff’s office have called them and said they had missed a court date and have a fine, and if they didn’t pay the fine, they were going to be arrested and all that kind of stuff,” Betts said.
In a strange twist, the scammer called a potential St. Louis victim, saying he was Deputy Sgt. Donald Hawkins. The real Hawkins got the message and returned the call.
“And then I called the suspect back and he answered the phone and said, ‘This is Sgt. Donald Hawkins from the sheriff’s office,’ and I said, ‘Well, that’s interesting. This is Sgt. Donald Hawkins from the sheriff’s office.’ And, of course, he hung up on me,” Hawkins said.
Sheriff Betts is warning the public not to be taken in by these types of scams.
“I want the public to know that if you are called by anybody and they’re telling you you have some kind of court situation that you have to deal with, call the sheriff’s department,” he said. “The sheriff’s department will never call on you with that kind of situation.”
A spokesman for the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department said it seems like the same group of scammers operating on both sides of the Mississippi River. They’re investigating the scams in their jurisdiction, while the St. Louis Sheriff’s Department has turned its case over to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
Meanwhile, Amy Johnson from Belleville has her own warning after losing her money to the scammer.
“That money was in our bank for a reason and now it’s not. I was dumb and fearful that something was going to happen to me,” she said. “I just hope that people see it and realize to not call it back. Just immediately call the sheriff’s department.”
Suggest a Correction