Scam targets local doctors

Columbus County Sheriff badge

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.”

  • Obituaries

    Kaylin Paige Bryan

    Services will be announced. July 31, 1997 — September 15, 2023 Kaylin Paige Bryan, age 26, of Bladenboro passed away on Friday, September 15, 2023. She was preceded in death by her maternal grandmother Betty [Read More]
  • Obituaries

    Diantha Fairfax Cartrette

    October 7, 1941 ~ September 21, 2023 (age 81) Diantha Fairfax Cartrette, age 81, of Lake Waccamaw, NC, passed away peacefully at the Angel House Lower Cape Fear Life Care, Whiteville.  Diantha was born in [Read More]
  • No Picture

    Jeff Simmons

    September 20, 2023 – Old Dock NC   Arrangements are incomplete.
  • NWS graphic TS Ophelia
    Front Page

    Rainmaker Headed for SENC

    What will likely become Tropical Storm Ophelia is expected to bring 1.75 to 2.5 inches of rain to Columbus starting Friday. The National Weather Service (NWS) said the coastal low pressure system is a rapidly [Read More]
  • Front Page

    Casinos, Video Gaming Out for Now

    Leaders in the General Assembly on Tuesday folded their cards when it came to sections on casinos and video gambling terminals. The two sections of the budget bills were axed after Senate and House leadership [Read More]
About Jefferson Weaver 1577 Articles
Jefferson Weaver is the Managing Editor of Columbus County News and he can be reached at (910) 914-6056, (910) 632-4965, or by email at