KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — A Kentwood woman says two men posed as cops over the phone to try to scam her out of hundreds of dollars — and other Kent County residents have reported similar calls.
“It shook me up,” the Kentwood woman who asked not to be identified said. “It was very unnerving, and it shook me up.”
The woman said a man on the other end of the line pretended to be a cadet with the Kent County Sheriff’s Department.
“He told me that he had two warrants for my arrest and I was like, ‘Two warrants for my arrest? For what?’ He said it was for failure to appear for jury duty,” she said.
But she couldn’t remember being called for jury duty.
She was suspicious, but said the caller was very convincing and passed the call on to his so-called lieutenant. The pair worked hard to make it sound like the call was from the real sheriff’s department.
“It was a polished act, very polished. I mean, right down to the papers rustling, the phone going on hold, the two conversing, him saying my name in the background, reading it off the warrant,” the woman said.
They demanded she come up with $500 to avoid arrest. They said she needed to get a special voucher.
“He says, ‘It’s, well, like a money order.’ And I’m like, ‘OK, where do I get this?’ He said, ‘Speedway,’” she said. “And at that point, I was like, ‘OK, we’re done now.’”
That so-called special voucher was a Green Dot prepaid debit card that has become a favorite of scammers because anyone can take out the money if they have the card numbers.
Lt. Al Roetman — who is legitimately with the Kent County Sheriff’s Department — warned that people asking you to call them back with Green Dot card numbers are trying to rip you off.
Roetman said that in the last few days, the real sheriff’s department has received five reports of people getting missed jury duty scam calls.
“We’re doing some backdoor investigation to try to identify who’s involved in this spoofing and try to put a criminal case together,” he said.
But that will be difficult. The scammers are believed to be using the Internet to get enough information about the department to be convincing on the phone, and they could be thousands of miles away.
The bottom line for people who get a call is simply “don’t do it,” Roetman said.
“Even if you doubt yourself, wait until the next morning and go to the police,” he advised.
The scam has happened so often that the Michigan Supreme Court last year put out a warning, saying anyone who gets a call saying they have missed jury duty should call police if they’re skeptical.
According to Kent County’s website, people who fail to appear for jury duty will be sent a letter in the mail. In any case, authorities will not demand money from you over the phone to avoid arrest.
Anyone who doubts they are speaking to the sheriff’s department on the phone can contact Kent County Dispatch Center at 616.336.3113.