Scammers called at least four Barrington residents last week, telling the people that they needed to pay upwards of $2,000 each or they would be arrested for skipping out on jury duty.
The call is bogus, said officials. In fact, RI Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin issued a press release warning Rhode Islanders of the scam.
“The scam artist claims to be from a local county sheriff’s office, has personal information about the individual, such as name and address, and appears to be calling from a phone number with a local area code,” stated the press release.
“If you are contacted by this outfit, get the name and the phone number of the person calling, make note of who they allegedly work for, and then hang up and contact your local police,” said Mr. Kilmartin.
That’s exactly what most of the Barrington residents did. Only one woman, a Rustwood Drive resident, followed the directions of the scammers. She purchased two pre-paid $1,000 debit cards that she sent to the individuals. The resident’s husband, however, placed a stop-payment order on the cards.
The other residents — one on Spinnaker Drive, another on Maudsley Avenue and one on Waverly — all rejected the orders. One woman even told the scammers that she didn’t have the money and to come and arrest her. She then called the local police.
Police said the scammers called from the number 401-302-2852.
According to the AG, residents should be aware of several red flags associated with this scam:
• The Jury Commissioner’s Office for the Rhode Island Superior Court does not issue arrest warrants for individuals who fail to appear for jury duty. If someone fails to appear for jury duty, the Courts will contact the individual to inquire why they failed to appear and will reschedule or excuse the individual based on the circumstances.
• If an arrest warrant is issued for an individual, law enforcement will not contact the person to let them know it exists. No law enforcement agency in Rhode Island will allow an individual to post bail by credit card over the telephone to avoid being arrested.
• Sheriffs in Rhode Island are a division of the Rhode Island Department of Public Safety and primarily work with the Courts. Unlike most other states, Rhode Island does not have sheriff departments based in counties. Each city and town has its own local police department.
“Scam artists often use information that is readily available on the Internet, like your name, address and phone number, to give the perception they are legitimate and to heighten the fear of their victims that an arrest is imminent,” Mr. Kilmartin said. “It is despicable and it is illegal.”
The Consumer Protection Unit is available to speak to community groups on how to prevent being a victim of identity theft and other scams. For more information on the Consumer Protection Unit, or to file a consumer complaint, please call 274-4400 or visit www.riag.ri.gov.