By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News
A phone scam is going around where the caller claims to have a bench warrant from the Travis County Sheriff’s Office and asks for hundreds of dollars in fines for failure to appear. The Travis County Sheriff’s Office confirms this is fraudulent and warns people not to send money.
“Do not send money,” said Lisa Block, spokesperson with the TCSO.
A Steiner Ranch resident was called on Nov. 14 by someone with a strong Texas accent who identified himself as Lt. Gary Phillips of the Travis County Sheriff’s Department. Ultimately he asked for her to buy a prepaid card amounting to nearly $1,000 for fines.
“I kept talking and taking notes even after it was pretty obvious it was a scam, but finally hung up after he persisted in wanting a cell phone number,” said the local resident who did not want to be identified because the caller has her name, number and address.
Block confirms that scammers are pretending to be employees from either Travis or Williamson County sheriff’s offices and that they call people and tell them they have outstanding warrants for missing jury duty.
“The suspects tell the victim to get a MoneyPak card to pay the fine. The suspect also advises the victim to stay on the phone while they buy the card,” Block said.
“Warrant divisions sometimes make phone calls to advise people about warrants, but they never ask you to send money via a third party, such as MoneyPak,” Block said.
Local scam attempt
The scammer who called the local resident last week informed her that because she had not appeared for jury selection on Oct. 20, a “bench warrant” was issued for “failure to report”.
Apparently a court summons from the “jury commission office” had been mailed to her home address in the Estates of Westridge — which the caller correctly identified — on Sept.8. The local resident informed the caller that she never received such a summons, but that didn’t seem to matter.
“I was informed that because of this warrant, I usually would be immediately arrested and taken in, but because they looked up my record and I had no prior arrests, that they would not have to arrest me if I paid a fine before my court date on Dec 8. at 9:45 a.m.,” said the local resident.
She was told she would need to buy prepaid green and white “MoneyPak reload” cards. He also used the phrase “purchase verification card.” One needed to be for $495 for failure to appear, and one for $450 for something else, she said.
She then was given several addresses to choose from where she could purchase the cards. After picking one, she was told it was a 7-Eleven.
“I was told that at my December court appearance, the judge would refund my money if he determined my innocence,” she said.
The scammer then asked the local resident for her cell phone number, and said he really needed her to be on a cell phone, because she had only an hour and a half to purchase the cards.
“He said needed to stay on the cell phone with me during that time so that if I came in contact with any law enforcement, he would be able to explain what was going on so that I would not be immediately arrested and taken in,” she said.
She looked up the number — (512) 213-7613 — on the internet and it showed the number to be a cell phone in Lockhart, Tex.
The local resident then called the Travis County Sheriff’s Department to report it and filed a report online.
File a report
TCSO encourages people to take action.
“If you get one of these calls, hang up and call the Travis County Warrant Division or the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office. You may also want to block the number on your phone,” Block said.
Travis County Warrant Division: (512) 854-9751 or Williamson County Sheriff’s Office: (512) 943-1300