Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian is warning residents of a series of ongoing scams in which perpetrators are claiming to be Middlesex Deputy Sheriffs.
“In recent weeks we have been made aware of three different scams in which individuals claiming to be deputy sheriffs have demanded money and threatened arrest for failure to pay debts or failure to appear for jury duty,” said Sheriff Koutoujian. “In an effort to prevent people from losing their hard-earned money, we want to make as many residents aware of these scams as possible.”
The callers claim the arrest warrants can be canceled if a fine or settlement is paid immediately. All three are similar to scams being reported nationwide.
In the newest reported scam, multiple individuals told the Office of Jury Commissioner (OJC) they received calls indicating warrants had been issued – or were about to be issued – because they failed to appear for jury duty. In each case the caller, who claimed to be a member of the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office, indicated the warrant could be resolved if the victim would pay a fine. That could be accomplished by the victim purchasing a money card or “Green Dot” card, loading it with a specific amount of money and providing the scammer with the numbers on the card.
“We will never threaten arrest in such a manner,” said Sheriff Koutoujian. “Our job is not to collect money, so we’ll never call you to ask for a credit card number or demand you purchase a product to pay any outstanding fines or debts.”
The OJC issues over half a million summonses every year to provide diverse and representative jury pools in Massachusetts courts. Potential jurors receive at least two or three notices from the OJC before they appear for service, and will receive multiple warnings from the OJC and the courts if they have missed their jury service. A delinquent juror’s first notice of missed service would never be a call from the sheriff’s office or OJC, according to Jury Commissioner Pamela J. Wood, nor would a government official ever demand payment of a delinquency fine over the phone.
Wood said that her office’s mission is to insure eligible citizens serve their jury duty, not collect payment of delinquency fines. “If you do miss your chance to perform jury service, you would resolve the matter by either reporting for jury duty or by providing proof of disqualification to the OJC. If you failed to do either, and you also failed to respond to our multiple jury duty notices, a judge could order you to pay up to a $2,000 fine. But that would be resolved with the court, not over the phone with the sheriff’s office.”
Earlier this month, the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office alerted the public to a scam in which callers were claiming to be deputies collecting debts owed to the IRS. Adding to the realism of the calls, the scammers allegedly provided two call back telephone numbers to the intended victims, including the legitimate numbers to the administrative office of the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office (781-960-2800) and the IRS telephone assistance line (1-800-829-1040).
In the third scam reported to the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office, an individual reported receiving a call from a man demanding a $2,500 payment on a delinquent payday loan. The caller allegedly threatened arrest by the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office, but told the victim the matter could be resolved if he paid a portion immediately by credit card.
“High rate payday loans aren't allowed in Massachusetts given our 23% interest rate cap,” according to Commissioner of Banks David Cotney. “Consumers should also be aware that licensed debt collectors cannot arrest delinquent borrowers and that this type of threat is likely a scam.”
The Middlesex Sheriff’s Office is advising anyone who receives calls similar to any of these to not provide any personal information or money and to immediately contact their local police department or the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office at 978-932-3220. Information regarding specific scams can also be directed to the Office of Jury Commissioner at 617-422-5860 and the Division of Banks at 800-495- BANK (2265).