New scam warns of arrest for missing jury duty – News – Gaston GazetteFebruary 22, 2020
One Gastonia man thought he was doing the right thing recently when he sent in nearly $3,000 worth of prepaid cards to the Gaston County Clerk’s Office.
The man, who didn’t want to be identified, said he received a message on Valentine’s Day from a person saying he was an officer with the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office and there were warrants out for his arrest.
They told the man he’d been served a jury summons on Jan. 3 to appear on Feb. 6. And when he failed to appear for jury duty, the caller said “Judge Phillips” had issued a bench warrant for his arrest for contempt of court and failure to appear. To avoid arrest, he needed to pay fines that started off at around $450.
The man called the number back and, over the next four hours, he was talked into putting $2,610 on prepaid cards he bought from five different locations in Gastonia and give the card access numbers to the scam artists.
He talked to five different individuals, including “Sgt. James Jones” and “Capt. Johnny Knox.” The individuals even staged arguments between the police officers and court clerks in trying to clear up his legal matter before the end of the workday.
“You live and learn. This is the hardest lesson I think I’ve learned,” the man said. “I’m retired. That’s next month’s money.”
He said the scammers told him to appear at the Gaston County Courthouse at 9 a.m. Monday to clear up his matter. The victim even said he thought he’d made a friend through the ordeal.
“Capt. Johnny Knox is the biggest redneck draw you ever heard,” the man recalled. “At the end, we were fishing buddies. The last thing he told me was, ‘I’ll see you Monday morning. I want to meet you.’”
But there is no Capt. Johnny Knox with the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office. And there was no warrant for his arrest.
“They were trying to do the right thing and got scammed pretty good,” said Gaston County Clerk of Court Larry Brown, who met with the man and his wife when they came in to deliver their proof of payment.
Michael Radford, assistant chief deputy with the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office, said his office has seen anywhere from eight to 12 of the scams within the last three weeks.
“There could be more than what we’ve actually seen,” Radford said. “Do not go get these prepaid cards because that is the scam of the century that they’re using now.”
Radford said the scammer usually threatens the victim with turning them over to the Internal Revenue Service or having law enforcement show up at their front door.
In addition to missed jury service, other scams involve saying the victim owes back taxes or a relative is in trouble and needs money right away.
“It’s been going on for a while,” Radford said. “They just switch the scenarios around.”
Often using what Radford calls “strong-arm tactics,” the caller instructs the victim to go buy a prepaid card, scratch off the card verification numbers and then tell them the numbers….