HUDSON, Fla. (WFLA) – When Donna Smith got a call from a Pasco County sheriff’s deputy a few weeks ago, her heart sank.
“And he said that they had sent multiple letters to my address. I failed to appear for jury duty so now there was a warrant out for my arrest,” said Smith. “I needed to take care of this immediately. In order to put it on hold, I needed to pay a bail. ”
The other option, the man told Smith, a deputy would come to her home and take her to jail.
But the caller was a fake and now Smith is out the $300 she paid him to keep her on the right side of the law.
The real deputies say he was the one on the wrong side of the law.
Detective Anthony Cardillo says this is a growing and disturbing trend in Pasco County where people posing as law enforcement are contacting residents demanding money.
They use the fear factor to get what they want.
Det. Cardillo says that’s not how the sheriff’s office works.
“The sheriff’s office will not ever release or make phone calls or do anything or ask for money to alleviate anything the sheriff’s office may have against you,” said Cardillo.
He says this, like many other phone scams, are almost impossible to track.
“There’s essentially almost no way for us to track these numbers. The money that you send is gone. The sheriff’s office is not going to be able to get it back for you.”
So far, the detectives are investigating more than a dozen cases where fake deputies have contacted citizens demanding payments.
“They are using a name, they are using a rank. A majority of the time, the name and the rank is correct,” said Cardillo. “It is an actually employee, a member of the sheriff’s office that they are using.”
Detective Cardillo says the best advice is if you don’t recognize the phone number, don’t answer the call. Generally, scam artists won’t leave messages. But if they do, contact the sheriff’s office if you have a question about the call.
While Smith is out hundreds of dollars she will likely never get back, she hopes there is some value to others in her story.
“You know, I kind of felt stupid that it happened,” said Smith. “But like I said, maybe it will help other people think twice if they get this phone call.”
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