New twist in novel ‘sheriff’s department scam’ tricks Cuyahoga County residents into sending impersonators money

Updated: Aug. 20, 2020 at 3:42 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - There’s a new twist on a con we’ve warned you about before.

19 News told you when scammers started impersonating sheriff’s deputies and demanding money.

Sheryl Harris says there’s a new trend in the messages scammers are now leaving compared to when they first started impersonating sheriff’s deputies a few years ago.

“At first, they were kind of ‘robo-voicey’ and they mispronounced Cuyahoga,” she said. “Over time, they have polished themselves up.”

Harris works with the Cuyahoga Department of Consumer Affairs.

She says the impersonators usually give a story about why you need to send them money.

She gave us a recording of a recent voicemail one victim got.

The voice says, “My name is Captain [name] with the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office. It’s very important that you get in contact with me today.”

Then, the caller gives a callback number and her personal extension.

“If you actually dial the callback number, you get a recording that says you’ve reached the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department, and if this is an emergency, call 911,” Harris said.

Plus, she says the impersonator is using the name of a real Cuyahoga County deputy.

“Again my name is Captain [name],” the voice says on the message.

“That is problematic because we’ve had a few people contacted get on the internet and look up to see if he’s real and it is,” Harris said.

Not only are the scammers doing their homework now, but Harris says you also need to be aware that they’re using a new twist to make their con more believable.

“We’ve gotten several reports from people saying they are calling my relatives,” she said.

She says it’s in hopes that the relative will pass the message on.

“In one case, a younger person really thought it was real, because his mother gave him a message,” she said.

So how can you protect yourself?

First, check and see if the number left for you is actually to your local sheriff’s department.

“Look it up on your county website because they are going to have the real number,” Harris said.

And, before you send any money, be sure to contact your local police or someone of authority first.

“You can always call Scam Squad,” Harris said.

The Scam Squad number is 216-443-SCAM.

You can also make a report online.

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