Sheriff: Beware of traffic ticket phone scam

The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office is warning the public of a phone scam involving unpaid traffic tickets.

Since Tuesday, the sheriff’s office has been receiving complaints about individuals calling residents and claiming they have an unpaid traffic citation. The scammers claim that if a citation isn’t paid, a warrant will be issued, according to a Johnson County Sheriff’s Office news release.

Other callers have reported the scammers using court terms, like subpoena. In one case, a scammer told a person that they had ignored a subpoena that involved an investigation, the news release says.

“They’re just trying to get them to give them money,” said Duane Burgess, sheriff.

There is no law enforcement agency or court in Johnson County that would call and ask for payment of any kind over the phone, the news release said.

“These scammers do their research and will attempt to use names of law enforcement officers who may actually work in Johnson County. As the Johnson County Sheriff, I can ensure you that I do not call citizens nor do my deputies call and request payments of any kind,” Burgess said.

Scam calls purporting to be from Johnson County law enforcement officers have happened before. Some calls have even used Burgess’ name. The scammers often get the names from press releases and news reports, he said.

“They’re trying to gain (people’s) trust and it’s unfortunate they do this,” Burgess said.

If people do not recognize the number calling, they should not answer it and let the caller leave a voicemail. They should also not open links in messages from unknown persons, he said.

“Technology changes all the time with these folks, and you don’t need these people getting your account numbers,” Burgess said.

People should also never provide their social security number or any financial information, banking or credit card numbers to a person over the phone, he said.

Officials also encourage residents to follow several tips provided by the Indiana Attorney General’s Office.

Residents should be on alert for communications with dangerous attachments or fraudulent links. Avoiding clicking on links in unsolicited emails and being wary of email attachments is also important, the news release says.

Additionally, people should always verify the email addresses of those who send you emails and should use trusted, legitimate government websites to obtain up-to-date information, according to the news release.

Other tips include not revealing personal or financial information via email or text message and verifying the authenticity of a charity before donating money.

“It is unfortunate that every day we see and hear about new ways to scam hard-working people. Please be alert and report suspicious calls or activity,” Burgess said. “We do look into the numbers associated with the telephone call to the victims, if there is a good number we do investigate and try to catch these people.”

In terms of criminal charges, law enforcement has several different avenues they can use to investigate scammers attempting to defraud residents. This ultimately depends on what the scammers say in the calls, he said.

However, many scammers are out of the country, using a Google phone number to make it look like they are nearby. That can make it difficult to police at times, he said.

If someone does get a scam call, they should hang up and report it to police. Law enforcement will do something with it if they can, Burgess said.

“Sometimes they are out of the county, but we will do everything we can to inform the citizens of Johnson County to not be part of these heinous crimes,” he said.