JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. - The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office warned the public Tuesday about a phone scammer pretending to be a major with the sheriff's office.
Sheriff's Office spokesman Mark Techmeyer said the agency has received more than 10 calls from residents in the past two days who received phone calls from a man posing as a "Major Tom Wilson," who tells victims that they missed jury duty and are going to be arrested.
The suspect tells the victims they can avoid going to jail if they go to Wal-Mart or Walgreens and buy $500 worth of "Green Dot MoneyPak" cards, Techmeyer said. The prepaid cards would supposedly cover the fines for failing to appear for jury duty. The suspect instructed the victims to buy the cards, scratch off the numbers on the back and provide those numbers to the suspect. Anyone the cardholder shares the number with, has instant access to the cash.
"Green Dot MoneyPak cards are reloadable debit cards, commonly available, which can be used to pay phone, cable, or credit card bills," Techmeyer said. "They're typically for people who don't have bank accounts. Scammers like them because they're more convenient than a money wire, but just as untraceable. The cards are not linked to bank accounts -- the money is on the card."
Several victims fearing arrest paid money to the scam artist.
"My heart started racing because I thought I was going to go to jail," said Vernon White, who got the scam phone call late Monday night. "I just kept thinking, 'Man, what else is going to go wrong?'"
White said he rushed to Wal-Mart to buy the money card, but his debit card was denied because it was expired.
"Thank God, it expired one day before," he said with a laugh.
The next morning, he and his wife smelled a scam and called the sheriff's office before sending $1,000 to the "mayor" -- but not before giving their credit card information.
"He got $130, but my credit card company is going to take care of it," said White. "I'm embarrassed. I felt I had things under control because I had seen this sort of thing before. But at the end of the day, they can catch anybody at the right spot. You can be vulnerable at any time."
One of the victims, an at-risk adult, followed the scam artist's instructions and actually provided the card numbers to the suspect. Techmeyer stressed that "the Sheriff’s Office will never call a citizen and ask for payment of any kind."
Green Dot MoneyPak cards can pay for a range of services, including "online wagering accounts," credit cards, bank accounts, online games and prepaid phones services, according to MoneyPak.com.
MoneyPak.com warns consumers about such scams. "Use your MoneyPak number only with businesses on our approved list. If anyone else asks for your MoneyPak number or information from your receipt, it’s probably a scam. Don’t give your MoneyPak number to pay for something you buy through the classifieds or to collect a prize or sweepstakes. Do not give away your receipt information to another party either. If you give your MoneyPak number or information about the purchase transaction to a criminal, Green Dot is not responsible for paying you back. Your MoneyPak is not a bank account. The funds are not insured against loss."
Anyone who has received a similar scam call -- and has not reported it yet -- asked to call the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office at 303-271-0211. If you have information about these crimes, you are asked to call the Sheriff’s Office tip line at 303-271-5612.