If Lt. Kenneth Smith is calling you from the sheriff’s office – hang up the phone.
The Columbus County Sheriff’s Office is warning doctors in the area about a “failure to appear” scam that is making the rounds. The caller has no accent, and claims to be Kenneth Smith of the sheriff’s office.
“He even gives a badge number,” said Michele Tatum, spokesperson for the sheriff’s office. “Sometimes he says he is an officer, a lieutenant, or a deputy.”
The caller tells the doctor that he or she has a pending arrest warrant for failing to appear in court. If the victim wants to pay a $500 fine, he or she can avoid being arrested, Tatum said.
In some cases, the caller has demanded the money be deposited on a debit card. The victim is told to meet the caller at the sheriff’s office civil division. He then finds a reason to insist that the caller give him the card information over the telephone.
Five or six local doctors have been hit with the scam so far, Tatum said. One paid the money as instructed, while others contacted the sheriff’s office.
In one case, she said, the victim was on the phone with the scammer when the victim walked into the civil division. A deputy took over the telephone call. After cursing at and threatening the deputy, the caller hung up.
Tatum said that the sheriff’s office will never demand payment over the telephone, and does not instruct people to buy pre-paid cards to pay court fees. No one should ever give out personal banking information over the telephone, Tatum said.
“The best thing you can do,” Tatum said, “is hang up the phone.”