WASHINGTON - You got to hand it to them, rip-off artists keep coming up with newer and more creative ways of separating us from our money.
The latest swindle is a new twist on an old type of phone scam. To entice them to pay up, the victim is told there's a warrant out for their arrest.
That would probably get your heart pumping when you answer the phone and you're told you have an outstanding traffic ticket from a red-light camera violation and that you have missed you court date and a warrant has been issued for your arrest.
Officer Jonathan Perok, spokesman for the Prince William County Police, says a 69-year-old Haymarket man is out more than $300 after falling victim to this scam.
"Any time someone calls you and claims to be from a law enforcement agency claiming that they have a warrant for your arrest, I'm sure that would alarm anyone," Perok says.
The victim reported the incident to police late Monday evening. He told police that the caller claimed to be a Lt. Mike Stevens with the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office, Perok says.
Then the caller gave the victim an out. "That he could get the warrant taken care of if (the victim) would go and buy a pre-paid money card and provide (the caller) with the necessary information over the phone," says Perok.
He says the victim complied with the caller's request and then contacted police. But Perok warns that no government agency would ever ask such a thing over the phone from citizens and would not require citizens to buy a pre-paid money cards.
Officer Perok says the bottom line is that unless you know the person, don't ever buy a pre-paid money card and give the caller the necessary information to use that card over the phone.
"It's kind of unnerving to see the number of people that fall for these scams and it's complete strangers wanting money and then the victim willingly gives it over and then call police later to report that they've been scammed," Perok says.
The department says a legitimate government agency or business would never ask for a pre-paid card to pay for anything including outstanding bills or fines. Residents should verify the caller's claim before sending them any money or contact the police agency directly.
Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman told WTOP earlier this week that no "Mike Stevens" works for his department. He similarly warned residents about the same scam.
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