Phone scammers rely on new trick — posing as deputies

EVERETT — The reports are still coming in, two or three times a day.

Scammers call potential victims, posing as Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies. They demand money and threaten to arrest victims with a warrant.

Victims should call 911, officials say. So far, there haven’t been any reports of anyone falling for the scam, sheriff’s spokeswoman Shari Ireton said.

The suspects use simple technology tricks to make victims’ caller ID devices show the number for the sheriff’s reception office at the county courthouse in downtown Everett.

Most of the reports have come into the Everett office, Ireton said, though Darrington and south county have one reported incident each.

The new scam is similar to a jury-duty-themed ruse earlier this year. Several people sent money in that case.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Michael Downes said he learned Wednesday that somebody had attempted the scam using his name.

An Everett woman reported that she was called by somebody who claimed to be involved in law enforcement. The person told her that Downes had issued two warrants for her arrest, each with $500 bail, and that she’d also been fined $375. The woman said she was told to send $1,000 to an area business and the fine would be waived. If not, she’d be arrested later in the day on the warrants.

The woman recognized the scam and reported the call to police.

Downes said he was bothered that somebody was using his name in that fashion, and he urged anyone who is approached in a similar fashion to report the calls to 911.

“The court does not operate that way,” he said.

Some of the callers just say they’re a deputy, and don’t mention any specific jurisdiction, Ireton said. One person was told to go to a local grocery store and mail a money order.

“None of our deputies will ever call someone for money — ever,” Ireton said. “If a person claiming to be a law enforcement official with any agency in the county calls and says, ‘We’d like you to pay me. Give me your Social Security number. Give me a credit card number.’ You should take their badge number and hang up and call 911, or get their name, because we don’t do that here.”

The county website, snoco.org, has public databases available showing who has felony and misdemeanor warrants.

Most deputies planning to serve an arrest warrant won’t advertise that in advance, Ireton said.

“We will not call you to tell you when we’re on our way to arrest you,” she said.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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