Don’t give money to anyone over the phone for anything ever
A local woman gave money to scammers pretending to be with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. Her story is a cautionary tale to anyone who gets a phone call asking for money.
On Sunday afternoon, Sharon Anderson Morris was home relaxing with her husband when he got a call on his cell phone.
Morris said the callers asked to speak to her because she missed three court dates. Morris’ husband did what consumer advocates advise and asked for a call back number. He hung up and then Morris called the number her husband was given.
“And it went to like a whole setup. An office from a Summit County Sheriff's Office, they had people answering the phone with that and transferred to the exact number extension for the person that I just talked to," Morris said. "And he said, 'Oh, you must be Sharon Morris and I'm glad you called us back because we have three warrants out for your arrest.' Three? I said, 'Arrests for what?' And he said, 'You’ve missed three court dates.'”
Morris said the person she was talking to had private information about her such as past and present home addresses and her full name. She said they acted as if they were on her side.
“And he was really sympathetic saying, 'I don’t like working on Sunday,' and you could hear people in the background," Morris said. "And they were saying, 'Because I don't like doing this but I have to do this because I'm trying to protect you and we need to get this resolved so that you don't have to go to jail, because you're going to have to go to jail.'”
In the end, the scammers set up appointments for Morris with a phony county clerk and stayed on the phone with her for over two hours. She said each time she asked to call them back to make sure it was legitimate, she was always connected to what she thought was the Summit County Sheriff's Office.
Ultimately, Morris said she was scared she was going to be arrested so she transferred more than $1,000 via the banking app, Zelle.
“I'm not uneducated and I've kind of seen this kind of stuff happen in different ways but these guys are smart," Morris said. "And my husband and I both, the radar was up a little bit but not enough because they had all the information they got on the internet from us.”
Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez said he’s frustrated because his office has put out numerous alerts about this crime but the scammers are getting bolder and more sophisticated.
“They're starting to use my name specifically, 'This is the Sheriff Justin Martinez,'" he said. "We've even had people say, 'I don't believe you,' and they want a callback number. They're giving callback numbers now and allowing the potential victim to call the suspects back. It used to just be a one-way communication. Now they're letting, because you feel like if I can call you, then this must be more legit.”
Martinez said he understands why a potential victim would be afraid because the scammers are so convincing, but said there is a hard and fast rule around money exchanging hands with law enforcement.
“One thing that we will always say, no law enforcement agency, federal, state, county, city, will never call anybody and ask for money over the phone; that is not how we operate," Martinez said. "If you get a suspicious call, call us let us look into it. We will let you know if it's legit or not. But if they are asking for money, it is 100 percent a scam. No questions about it.”
Martinez said if you get a call from someone asking for money, call the Summit County Sheriff’s Office dispatch at (435) 615-3500.