NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (WFLA) — It’s a bit unusual to hear the county sheriff being called a victim, but Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco can say he’s the victim of a stolen identity.
Someone recently used a fake Facebook account with Nocco’s image to try to collect donations “on behalf of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.” The site was bogus and has since been deleted.
Because of First Amendment laws, this technically is not an identity theft case, but the sheriff worries if these scam artists keep posing as trusted law enforcement officers it could impact public trust.
“At 3 o’clock in the morning, when we knock on the door and say Pasco Sheriff’s Office, people should trust who we are,” Nocco said. “To me, it’s about our image as the sheriff’s office. the fact that somebody is out there trying to get funds, donations – that to me is the saddest part.”
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office does accept donations for certain programs and if citizens want to donate, the sheriff invites them to drop off their gift in person at the sheriff’s office. That way there is no confusion as to who is receiving those funds.
Investigators don’t believe anyone sent in donations to the phony site, but they are looking for victims.
This is just the latest scam in Pasco County targeting residents.
Earlier this month, Pasco deputies warned residents about a scam where people posing as deputies were calling and demanding ‘bond’ money for missed court dates. Investigators say the crooks did their homework in that case, using names of current employees of the sheriff’s office.
Donna Smith was a victim in that case. When she heard the voicemail from the man she believed to be a deputy, 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. ”
Sheriff Nocco says no one will call you and warn you if you have a warrant out for your arrest. He adds that he does not solicit donations on any social media platform.
The sheriff’s office says if you come across a Facebook page soliciting funds or if you receive a message that makes you feel uncomfortable, report it to Facebook and to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office TIP line at (813) 996-6982.
The sheriff says, unfortunately, he doesn’t see these scam artists giving up anytime soon.
“Unfortunately, my belief is it’s going to get worse,” said Nocco. “Because of technology, because of how easy it is.”