NORFOLK, Va. - Phone thieves make easy money scheming people out of thousands of dollars without showing their faces. That’s not new. But the thieves are always coming up with new ways to part you from your money. Now, a new phone scheme is specifically targeting the military.
“When they go on long deployments for like six months or a year, they’re away from the area. A lot of the times, they’re worried about 'how am I paying my bills?' while they’re gone and when they come back they’re worried about, 'did I miss anything?'" said Sheriff Joseph Baron, Norfolk Sheriff's Office.
For one Navy Sailor who wishes to remain anonymous, she says that’s exactly what she thought when she got a call saying she had missed jury duty twice. She was told if she didn’t pay $4,000 in Visa gift cards she would be arrested.
The Navy Sailor says the thief called her while at work. The caller ID read the “Norfolk’s Sheriff’s Department,” which made the phone call feel all too real.
The sheriff’s office says the Sailor fell victim and due to being active duty, she says she was nervous and wanted to handle the situation on her own immediately. So she bought $2,000 worth in gift cards, gave all of the card numbers to the fake deputy and mailed them off to the requested address.
Her biggest problem was not only giving up her hard-earned money, but also calling the sheriff’s office after the fact.
“A lot of the times, the citizens have already paid thousands of dollars and then because they run out of money or they’re being asked for more, they call us and that’s when they know they’re being scammed," said Sheriff Baron.
Sheriff Baron says it is extremely difficult to catch these thieves because of the sophisticated way they are running their schemes. In this case, the gift cards don’t leave evidence.
“If it had been a scam that’s done off of your regular credit card or through your bank card, the banks have a process to reimburse you for that kind of stuff. But, because you’re taking your money and you’re going and buying it on a gift card there’s no way to get that reimbursed," says Sheriff Baron.
Money lost and gone forever. Officials say if you ever get a call from your local sheriff’s office asking for money, look up the real number for the sheriff’s office and call first - never handle it on your own.