OKALOOSA COUNTY — At least one local resident lost $1,500 after a scammer called claiming to be a deputy with the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office.
The scammer, according to a press release from the Sheriff's Office Wednesday, told the victim he had missed jury duty and would be held in criminal contempt if he didn't pay $500 for a fine and $400 in court fees. The caller ID showed “Okaloosa County” in one of the cases and the caller identified himself as an Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office deputy.
The caller told the victim his phone was being tracked via GPS and if he didn’t comply, he would be arrested. While the scammer kept the victim on the phone, the victim was directed to a retail store where he purchased two prepaid cards, the press release said.
The caller then had the victim provide the numbers off the back of the cards. He told the victim one of the cards was no good and had him purchase another one for an additional $500.
The victim was instructed to drive to the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Livingston Office on East James Lee Road, where a deputy would allegedly make contact with him. After no deputy arrived, the victim made contact with the Sheriff’s Office.
In another case Tuesday, a victim also received a telephone call from a male claiming to be Sheriff's Office deputy. The suspect told the victim that she failed to report for jury duty and that if she did not pay $1,500 immediately, she would be arrested.
While keeping the victim on the phone, and advising her phone was being tracked by GPS, the victim was directed to a retail store where she obtained three pre-paid debit cards and provided the card information to the suspect. The suspect then instructed the victim to go to the same Sheriff's Office location on East James Lee Road and make contact with him. No one was there, however, when she arrived.
The victim then notified the Sheriff’s Office.
It was unclear as of print time Wednesday whether the second victim also lost money to the scammers.
The Sheriff's Office said these scams are quite common and can be extremely difficult to trace, so the best way to fight them is through prevention and education.
Legitimate operations would not require a person to purchase prepaid or gift cards and provide the numbers, the press release said.