The Delaware County Sheriff’s Office is warning residents of a phone scam being perpetrated by individuals claiming to be sheriff’s deputies.
Delaware County Sheriff’s Office Detective Jeff Bessinger said Wednesday that there has been a string of recent scam phone calls that have already cost some Delaware County residents tens of thousands of dollars.
Bessinger said a man calling himself “Deputy Walker” will call residents and scare them into thinking they will go to jail unless they give him money over the phone.
“Basically, what the person does is (say) you’ve missed a grand jury subpoena and there’s a warrant out for your arrest,” Bessinger said. “They give them some options for taking care of that so they won’t be arrested.”
Bessinger added the caller will direct victims to go to stores and buy prepaid Visa cards or iTunes gift cards.
“We had one gentleman on Saturday give these people $24,000,” Bessinger said. “This person will direct people to go the store and get these prepaid cards and tell them to come to the sheriff’s office here at 149 N. Sandusky St. But then he’ll call them and say, ‘I’ve gotten tied up on something else, give me the credit card information over the phone’ so he doesn’t actually meet with them, but he gets what he’s hoping for.”
Bessinger said the scammer has also convinced a man to send $1,000, and he added the sheriff’s office has taken reports of more than a dozen other attempts.
Bessinger said the caller previously used a number that appeared local, 740-213-5227, but said that number has since been disconnected. He said the scammer is “very convincing,” according to witnesses, and tells his victims not to tell cashiers or anyone else what they are doing, or they will be arrested. He added that the caller’s voicemail even claimed to be the sheriff’s office “warrant and citation division.”
“If you get these kinds of calls, we never solicit funds over the phone,” Bessinger said. “We never ask for Visa gift cards or iTunes cards.”
Bessinger said summons or other communications from the sheriff’s office will typically come via certified mail.
Bessinger added he’s requested information about the phone number but believes that the caller used a prepaid “burner” phone.
“A lot of times these people aren’t even local, that’s why they don’t want to meet,” Bessinger said.
He added on Monday, the scammer targeted local teachers and targeted medical professionals later in the week.
Bessinger said if you think you are on a scam call from a person claiming to be a law enforcement officer, hang up and call that office’s direct line.
City of Delaware Police Captain Adam Moore said Thursday that similar calls happened sometime ago with a scammer posing as someone from the non-existent “Delaware County Police Department” who demanded money to prevent an arrest.
Moore said the police department isn’t even set up to take money over the phone and would tell people to turn themselves in if they knew they had an active arrest warrant.
“I’d encourage anyone who is asked to send money immediately to really take pause and consider that transaction,” Moore said. “There’s a large potential for fraud.”
The sheriff’s office is asking residents who have spoken with this individual to please contact detectives and share any information. Bessinger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-833-2892.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.