A phone scam in Orange County has been targeting registered sex offenders, prompting the Orange County Sheriff’s Office to warn the community about the risks of these calls.
On Nov. 17, the sheriff’s office received two calls alerting them about the scam.
“The person would answer the phone and the caller would say, 'There’s a warrant out for your arrest, and you’ve failed to appear and comply with a DNA order,’ which is a thing that a sex offender would be familiar with,” Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood said. “So a sex offender on the registry is generally very concerned about coming to the attention of law enforcement.”
The scammers would then ask the recipients to meet them in the parking lot of the sheriff’s office and bring $2,000 to someone pretending to be a sergeant.
This scam is part of a broader trend of scams affecting Orange County residents. Blackwood said his department typically receives “at least seven (scam calls) a week.”
There was a recent scam targeting Duke Energy customers, with the scammers issuing a stark warning to customers, according to Alicia Stemper, director of public information and special services for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
“(The scammers said,) ‘Your power is gonna be cut off and you have three hours — you haven’t paid the bill,’” Stemper said.
Despite many emerging reports about scam calls, Stemper said it's rare for scammers to get caught because it can be difficult to determine their location due to caller ID spoofing. He also said that even if the callers get caught, they may not face significant jail time.
“Our courts have taken a real strong stance on non-conviction of non-violent type crimes and the collective wisdom is ‘Who are we helping?’” Blackwood said. “Well, my feeling on that is if we don’t have a deterrent to the behavior, the behavior is likely to continue.”
Alex Carrasquillo, the community safety public information officer for the Chapel Hill Police and Fire Departments, noted that the primary victims of scams tend to be people who are more vulnerable, such as the elderly. He implored the community to look out for these individuals.
“Our message to people who live here would be: make sure you’re checking on the older people in your lives so that they’re not becoming victims of these scams,” Carrasquillo said. “Have conversations about how they’re spending their money, what they’re doing on the internet, (the) types of phone calls they’re getting.”
Carrasquillo noted that scams can also target younger people. He cited dating apps as a potential risk to younger people and advised them to exercise caution.
“Scammers typically take advantage of students’ interest in getting things for free or at a low cost,” Carrasquillo said. “Scammers often appeal to students through social media posts. They might ask students to use popular mobile payment services to send them money for a deal.”
Blackwood shared some words of advice for the community about how to avoid falling prey to scam calls.
“The more someone encourages you to hurry up, the more you ought to slow down," Blackwood said. “If you get a call and somebody tells you that you’ve got three hours before your power’s cut off, it’s gonna take you three minutes to hang up and call your power company. If somebody calls you and says ‘I’m gonna arrest you’ … it’ll take you two minutes to call the sheriff’s office and ask any officer there if there’s a warrant out for your arrest.”
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