A new round of scams have cropped up, as reported by the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs. They are warning residents about a new round of impostor scams impersonating court officials or the County Sheriff’s deputies.
Recently, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department received multiple complaints about impostor calls in which scammers identified themselves as deputies. When calling the phone number given, the person answered by saying “Cuyahoga County Sheriff.”
“In these scams, callers posing as police or court officials tell potential victims they missed a court date and threaten them with immediate arrest or account seizure unless they pay a fine,” according to Sheriff’s Department officials. “Some scammers may initially tell people to go to the Justice Center to pay, but when victims call back as instructed, they ultimately are told to pay using retail gift cards or money wires—forms of payment that government agencies do not accept.”
“Calls threatening you with arrest, lawsuits or account seizure are flat-out scams,” said Sheryl Harris, Director of the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs. “These scammers steal the names of real agencies solely to scare you into paying them.”
The Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs received the most complaints about arrest and court scams as reported in 2018. So far this year, the Consumer Affairs Department has also been receiving reports of impostor calls offering free braces or other medical equipment.
North Royalton Police Department Lieutenant Keith Tarase said that there have not been calls for those particular scams to date. He has noted that the North Royalton Police Department does receive scam reports from the residents often. “We just had a call where someone called and told the lady her husband was in jail and if she didn’t pay up he will be deported. They are now out $8,000.” The wife had made several different stops, buying gift cards to cover the cost,” he said. Unfortunately, with gift cards, that money cannot be reclaimed. He noted that with tax season, “I’m sure we will start to be seeing tax scams soon, where someone posing from the Internal Revenue Service, saying that taxes are owed.” Tarase said almost all of these ask for gift cards.
According to the Cuyahoga County Consumer Affairs, in 2018 nine of the top ten scams reported were impostor scams. The following are the top ten scams, according to that Department:
“1) Arrest/Court Scams (Scammers pose as law enforcement or court officials)
2) IRS Scams (Callers pose as IRS agents)
3) Computer Tech Scam (Callers pretend to be techs offering help with one’s computer)
4) Sweepstakes/Lottery Scams
5) Grandparent Scams (Callers pretend to be grandkids in trouble with the law)
6) Robocalls (Tie with grandparent scams)
7) Social Security or Medicare Scams
8) Credit or Account Scams (Callers pose as banks or offer to lower credit rates)
9) Charity Scam Calls
10) Debt Collection Scams (Tie with charity calls)”
The Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs offers the following tips to help in avoiding impostor scams:
• Don’t necessarily trust caller ID readings, as scammers often imitate names and phone numbers.
• Screen calls by letting those you don’t recognize go to voicemail. Don’t call unknown callers back.
• Hang up on anyone who threatens you with legal action, arrest, or seizure of your accounts.
• Hang up if someone claims to be a child or grandchild in trouble with the law.
• Remember, an offer is not “free” or a “prize” if you are asked to pay for anything.
• If you’re worried, call police, Scam Squad or family for help checking out the call.
• Hang up if anyone directs you to pay using store gift cards, money wires or mailed cash, or if a caller insists on staying on the phone while you go to the bank or to buy gift cards.
Residents who receive scam calls are encouraged to call the North Royalton Police Department at 440-582-6216, the Scam Squad line at 216-443-SCAM (7226), or to report them by visiting consumeraffairs.cuyahogacounty.us.
Contributing Writer