Scammer reported using name of Bartholomew County sheriff’s deputy

A scammer has reportedly used the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department and the name of one of its deputies in a telephone scam.

A telephone caller falsely identified himself as sheriff’s department Capt. Brandon Slate in an attempt to obtain personal information from a local resident, Sheriff Matt Myers said.

When reporting the incident, the recipient of the call wrote down the number from the caller ID, which was a non-functioning number, deputies said.

“This is a scam,” Myers said. “Do not give personal information over the phone. Unfortunately, one local resident has already lost $1,000 to this scam.”

The sheriff’s department believes scammers are obtaining deputy names online and because the scammers sound so professional, many people — especially older residents — may provide the requested information.

If you receive this type of call, do not provide any information, Myers said. Hang up and call the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department at 812-379-1650 to verify that an actual deputy called.

The same type of phone scam was also reported in Johnson County, with at least three phone calls made Monday with the caller claiming to be Maj. Jerry Pickett of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department. The caller said the resident missed jury duty, a warrant had been issued for their arrest and a fine needed to be paid using prepaid debit cards, according to the department.

In at least one of the calls, the resident said the caller used the name of a Johnson County judge.

Those calls are not coming from the sheriff’s department and neither the police nor the courts will call someone to tell them they have a warrant or to seek payment over the phone, Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox said.

The department sent out alerts to individuals Monday afternoon, asking them to contact police if they receive a call.

Tax-payment scam

And while this is one of the newer variations of scams, some residents continue to receive calls from people who claim to be from the Internal Revenue Service or Publisher’s Clearing House who demand that money or gift cards be wired for payment of taxes.

An 80-year-old Columbus woman gave documentation on the Publisher’s Clearing House scam to sheriff’s deputies Monday.

The scammer told her that she had won $1 million and a new car in the sweepstakes, she said.

However, she caught on that it was a scam when she realized the scammer was reading from an out-of-date script, the woman said. She was told the vehicle she had won was a 2017 Buick LeSabre — with 2018 models already out for months.

The scammer went on to give her the names of people who would deliver her money and a bar code that was supposedly a prize-control number, she said. He then told her that she needed to go to a specific department store and wire $785 by Western Union to cover the taxes on the $1 million and the car, she said.

She didn’t fall for the scam but turned over all her notes and information from the call to sheriff’s deputies.

The Columbus Police Department reported a similar scam involving the lottery last week on its Facebook page.

This department took no joy in telling people that they had not won $230 million in the Mega Millions Sweepstakes.

“We are glad, however, that we stopped someone before they sent $20,000 of their hard-earned money to ‘Mr. King’ for a pretax payment,” the social media posting said.

While the Mega Millions Lottery is real, Columbus police assured local residents the organization is not randomly picking Columbus residents to award millions of dollars and a new Mercedes Benz.

“We hate to crush dreams, but we hate seeing people get scammed even more,” the police posting said. “So, before you buy that beach house with your new fortune, please remember the old saying, ‘If it is too good to be true, it probably is.’ “

How to help

Anyone with information about the sheriff’s deputy scam is asked to call detective Terry Holderness at 812-565-5927 or email sheriff@bartholomew.in.gov.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.