Scam alert: Callers falsely pitch scams regarding warrants, lawsuits, jury duty

Published 11:23 am Monday, December 6, 2021

Telephone scammers falsely claiming to be law enforcement or court officials have called residents in several areas of the state in recent weeks.

The scammers have used false claims of outstanding warrants and lawsuits in attempts to coerce people into making electronic payments or providing credit card information.

Senior Status Judge John Hudson of Natchez said an acquaintance contacted him this week after she received a call from someone claiming to be with the Adams County Sheriff’s Department. The caller claimed that a warrant had been issued for her arrest for failure to appear in court, and that she must immediately pay $6,000 via Apple Pay to avoid being taken to jail.

When she questioned the legitimacy of the call, someone else called her to vouch for the claim, and the caller identification number falsely showed it to come from the Sheriff’s Office. When she said that she knew Judge Hudson, the caller claimed that there would be repercussions if she contacted the judge. The woman started trying to figure out how to come up with the money, but decided to contact Judge Hudson.

Judge Hudson reported the scam to the Adams County Sheriff’s Office and contacted local news media. The retired County Court judge works as Resident Jurist assisting Youth Courts around the state. He hasn’t issued arrest warrants in years.

“It’s just a scam to get money, and if they call enough people, somebody will buy into the scam,” Judge Hudson said. “They are preying on people’s fears. They had an answer to everything that she could say to them.”

Claiborne County authorities also reported a variation of the scam this week.

Claiborne County Chief Deputy Christy Sykes said that one man who received such a call  gave the caller his credit card information after the caller demanded that he pay $1,400 to avoid being arrested. The man called the Sheriff’s Department and cancelled his credit card.

Sykes said, “That’s a dead give-away (of a scam) if they are asking you for your debit or credit card number on the phone. I am trying to make everyone aware not to give personal information over the phone.”

Noxubee County Circuit Clerk Freda Phillips reported a variation of the telephone scam in September. The caller falsely claimed that a lawsuit was going to be filed or had been filed. “They were only giving them a few days to come up with the money. They were asking for a Social Security number and personal information….It was a scam.”

Hinds County Circuit Clerk Zack Wallace said it’s been a few years since a similar scam was reported to him. The pitch was that the recipient of the call had missed jury duty. The caller claimed to be with the Sheriff’s Office, and used names of high-ranking officers there. The caller demanded that the recipient purchase green dot cards, then called back to request the code numbers on those cards.

Wallace put a scam warning on the Circuit Clerk’s website: “Be Aware of Jury Scams” is highlighted in red.

If you receive a telephone call from someone claiming to be a government official and demanding money, your Social Security number or credit card information, hang up, independently look up phone contact information for local law enforcement and report the contact. Do not provide credit card or Social Security numbers on the phone if you did not initiate the phone contact.