Crook Impersonating Sheriff’s Officer Employs ‘Jury Duty’ Scam

Meanwhile, ‘Sextortion’ Scam Infects the Internet
Feb 13, 2019

The Ocean County Sheriff’s Office released a public warning last Wednesday that was a model of brevity: “Ocean County residents, do not respond to any solicitation over the phone requesting money. Please contact your local police!”

The warning was in response to a scam that was revealed last week. Somebody is calling Ocean County residents, identifying himself as an employee of the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office and telling people they didn’t show up for jury duty and are now subject to a fine. To avoid arrest they must pay that fine, either using a credit card over the phone or by appearing at the Ocean County Courthouse.

The scam artist is good at what he does. He asks for specific members of a household, armed with specific personal information such as that member’s birth date. That makes the scammer seem real – who but a government agent would know a stranger’s birthday, as well as addresses for courtrooms​? It has been reported he even gives a return phone number to call if you’re not sure he’s legit. When you call it, you reach a recording from the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office.

The problem is that the recording is a fake, as is the caller. He doesn’t work for Ocean County Sheriff Michael H. Mastronardy or any other law enforcement agency.

The scammer also has plenty of chutzpah. When Mastronardy himself called the number the scam artist had left with a potential victim, the crook told him he wasn’t concerned about the sheriff in the slightest, and bragged “we” (a hint there is an entire ring of scammers involved) had already made a quarter-million dollars impersonating sheriff’s officers.

The Ocean County Sheriff’s Office advice – don’t respond to any phone solicitation asking for money – rings true not only in this specific case, but also for all phone scammers.

And it turns out there are many scammers out there, not only on the phone, but on the World Wide Web as well. Several websites including USA.gov, experian.com and Scambusters.org offer extensive information about frauds, including those related to banking, bankruptcy, health, housing and mortgages, immigration, internet, mass marketing, passports and visas, postal mail, telemarketing and telephone, tickets, IRS imposters, pyramid schemes, Ponzi schemes, tax ID theft, lottery and sweepstakes, and even government grant and census related fraud. Googling “Common Scams and Frauds/USAGov” is something everybody should do because it is a treasure trove of information.

Note the huge variety of scams.

According to the consumer credit reporting agency Experian, there were 47,567 scams added to the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker in 2018; that was up from 45,401 in 2017.

By the way, the “You have a fine due because you didn’t show up for jury duty” scam showed up on Scambusters.org. That report is worth checking out because demanding credit card payment isn’t the only trick in the scammers’ book.

Sometimes the scammer won’t demand payment but rather, after the victim says he or she never received a jury duty notice, will ask for personal information such as Social Security numbers and birth dates for “verification” purposes. Giving that type of information to a scammer can cost the victim much more than the $380 one Ocean County couple was almost taken for by the jury duty scam detailed above.

’Tis the Season

For IRS Fraud

Before we take a look at one of the newest – and weirdest – scams, let’s not forget a potentially devastating scam that has been around a few years now.

If you’re like most of the public, you are already dreaming of how you’re going to spend your tax return refund. Imagine how crushing it would be if you didn’t receive your expected hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Scammers and hackers are especially active during the rush to Christmas – you probably used your credit cards a lot, didn’t you? In fact, you may be waiting for your tax returns to pay off those credit cards. But there is another season where you want to be ultra-alert – tax season.

“Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job,” the government warns. “You may not be aware of the problem until you E-file your tax return and find out that another return has already been filed using your Social Security number. If the IRS suspects tax ID theft, they will send a 5071C letter to the address on the federal tax return. Keep in mind, the IRS will never start contact with you by sending an email, text, or social media message that asks for personal or financial information. Watch out for IRS imposter scams, when someone contacts you saying they work for the IRS.”

The Do Bees at the IRS recommend you take the following steps to avoid IRS fraud:

• File your income taxes early in the season, before a thief can file taxes in your name.

• Keep an eye out for any IRS letter or notice that states:

“More than one tax return was filed using your Social Security number.

“You owe additional tax, you have had a tax refund offset, or you have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.

“IRS records indicate you received wages from an employer unknown to you.”

IRS “don’ts” include replying to or clicking on any links in suspicious texts and social media messages. The most important advice from the IRS, though, is simple: never, ever give personal or financial information to a supposed IRS agent who called on the phone. The IRS always starts any sort of communication with a taxpayer with a letter, not a phone call.

Sextortion

On the Rise

A new hot scam – in more ways than one – grew in popularity in 2018, so much so that the FBI reported over 13,000 complaints related to the scam were filed in July alone.

This one starts on the internet, not the phone. You receive an email that uses your own email address. It will read something like this: “Hello!

“I have very bad news for you.

“15/10/2018 – on this day I hacked your OS and got full access to your account.

“So, you can change the password, yes ... But my malware intercepts it every time ...

“A month ago, I wanted to lock your device and ask for a not big amount of btc (bitcoin) to unlock. But I looked at the sites that you regularly visit, and I was shocked by what I saw!!! I’m talking about sites for adults.

“I want to say – you are a BIG pervert. Your fantasy is shifted far away from the normal course!

“And I got an idea. I made a screenshot of the adult sites where you have fun. After that, I made a screenshot of your joys (using the camera of your device) and glued them together. Turned out amazing! You are so spectacular!

“I know that you would not like to show these screenshots to your friends, relatives or colleagues. I think $786 is a very, very small amount for my silence.”

The email goes on to demand the payment in bitcoin and gives instructions on how to do so.

Don’t fall for the scam. Do not pay the ransom. The scammer has simply obtained your username from any number of massive data breaches of the past few years. He or she has nothing on you except for that username and, possibly, an old password. Simply change your password and you can safely ignore the rest of the threat.

— Rick Mellerup

rickmellerup@thesandpaper.net

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