Hamilton County authorities are warning the public of phone scams that have affected numerous area residents.
The fraudulent calls are targeting the elderly, as well as recently released inmates.
The phone fraudsters attempt to extort money by impersonating Hamilton County employees, including County Trustee Bill Hullander, and saying they must pay a fine for missing a court date or jury duty.
“We do not call people and threaten them with jail if they do not show up for jury duty,” Sheriff Jim Hammond said Monday at a news conference. “You will get a letter, and eventually, if the judge wanted to make an appointment, he would send a sheriff out to see, but none of these kinds of things will demand you make payment right away to avoid jail.”
Other cases report fraudsters asking victims to purchase Green Dot Prepaid Cards and transfer money to an account in order to receive a prize or award.
The scams are also becoming increasingly sophisticated, with some cases reporting calls in which a person claims they’ve kidnapped grandchildren or children and requesting ransom money.
“The key here is anytime you get a call wanting money, I don’t care what the reason is, you need to confirm,” Hammond said.
Although many of the scammers use local phone numbers, the phone lines are untraceable because they come from foreign countries and work through an extensive series of landlines to make the call, officials said.
The HCSO reported that they have 10-15 phone scam cases a month with about half of those cases losing money in the fraud. In one case, a local person lost as much as $18,000.
“You know years ago, Jesse James had a gun, today all you have to do is have a computer and a mouse and you can rob people,” Hullander said.
Officials urged any residents affected by this scam to verify the situation before they wire any money.
Those that would like to learn more about the situation, or report a scam, can contact the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.