DRAPER, Utah (ABC4) — A Draper resident lost thousands of dollars on Wednesday after a scammer impersonated a law enforcement officer who told her that she had been held in contempt of the court for not honoring a subpoena notice. The scammer claimed the only way she could get rid of the charge was to pay thousands of dollars in bail.
Draper resident Blake Pelton says his wife received a call on Wednesday, March 15, from a person who claimed to be a member of the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office. She reportedly searched the phone number up, and it turned out to match what was listed on their website.
The scammer proceeded to tell Pelton’s wife that she had been subpoenaed to testify in court on Tuesday as a character witness in a criminal case about her colleague. Since she missed the court date, she was now held in contempt.
The person on the phone said she can either post bail with $250,000 or pay a $25,000 bond on Wednesday. They attempted to instill fear in her by telling her they are monitoring her location and that she will be detained if she were to hang up the phone.
“She was very confused,” Pelton said. “She was jarred, panicked and not really sure what to do.”
Eventually, Pelton’s wife decided to follow the scammer’s directions out of fear of being arrested. Pelton says she went to Smith’s to buy MoneyPaks, a paper card that allows users to transfer money to another prepaid card. A MoneyPak is worth $500 each. The scammer reportedly told her that they would give her the money back once she signed some court documents.
“She went to a Smith’s, and they would only let her take $9,500 worth of cards,” Pelton said. “This is after she went to the bank and got tons of cash — cleared out our savings account.”
Employees at another Smith’s could see how visibly distraught Pelton’s wife was. Thankfully, they encouraged her to put down the phone and call the police.
However, it was too late. At that point, she had transferred over $9,500 to the scammer on the phone.
Draper police responded to the scene and told Pelton this kind of scam has been happening a lot. A woman reportedly lost $70,000 in a similar scam recently, Pelton said.
Pelton advised the community to be extra cautious about calls that demand an immediate money deposit. If someone does receive a similar call, the best thing to do is to hang up and contact the law enforcement agency the person claims to be from for more verification.
“A real [law enforcement member] will never ask you to pay over the phone or via MoneyPak,” Pelton said.
Officials at the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office are aware of similar scams that use fearful tactics to coerce victims into providing them with personal identifiers or paying for a fine or warrant. They say they will never call individuals to demand money or ask them for personal information such as social security numbers, date of birth or credit card information.
Here are some tips officials offered to avoid being scammed:
- Never divulge personal or financial information to unknown callers.
- Be suspicious of any caller demanding immediate payment for any reason.
- If you suspect the caller is an impersonator of any law enforcement officer, hang up and verify the information by calling that agency.
- Never wire money or provide bank account or credit card information to a stranger.
- You can remain anonymous when you report.