By Curt Yeomans
The Gwinnett County Police Department wants residents to know its officers are not calling people and demanding money to avoid being arrested.
The department issued an alert on Thursday about a scam in which someone is calling people and claiming to be a Gwinnett police officer and insisting that they will arrest the victim if that person doesn’t pay them via pre-paid debit card, gift cards, wire transfers, cash sent via FedEx or other courier or in the cryptocurrency known as bitcoin.
“The callers identify themselves as a police officer, usually using the name of a real officer obtained from the internet,” said Sgt. Jake Smith, whose own name has been used by scammers.
Smith said the scam is a variation on one that scammers have used where they call residents claiming: that they owe back taxes; that a relative has been arrested and bail money is needed; that a utility or service is about to be cut off; that they will be deported unless a payment is made; that immediate payment is needed for an outstanding warrant or ticket to avoid arrest; that a lottery has been won or a loan pre-approved.
“Scammers are using a computer program to make caller I.D. show a legitimate agency’s phone number, or any other number they want, which makes the scam more believable,” Smith said. “The Gwinnett County Police Department will never ask for payment of any sort over the phone.”
Some tips that Smith said residents should follow to avoid being scammed include:
• Treating anyone who calls and demands payment with suspicion
• Requesting the caller identify them self and then contact the agency they claim to be from to independently verify the caller’s identity.
• Not providing personal or financial information to people who contact the resident via an unsolicited call or email.
• Not wiring money or numbers for bank accounts or financial transaction cards to strangers.