Denise speaks from her own experience. She has had many trials and difficulties in her own life and seeks to help others through theirs.
On Tuesday, November 5, 2019, I received a phone call that rocked my world. It was the Burleigh County Sheriff's Office telling me that I failed to appear for Federal Grand Jury Duty. They said that I had received a letter indicating that I was to appear for jury duty on Monday, November 4, 2019, and asked why I did not appear.
I told them that I had not received a letter. They said that there were several others who had not received it, either, and that they needed to change the way that people receive the letters. They told me that because I did not appear, I now had two misdemeanor warrants I needed to clear with them.
I questioned them about the details, and they proceeded to tell me that I needed to come to the sheriff's office immediately and bring affidavits with me in order to clear my name. I was then given instructions to obtain "green-dot money-packs" for the two misdemeanors. They gave me the numbers that were to be associated with these money-packs.
I was to pay for the money-packs with cash and put $250 in each one. They said that they have to do things this way now, as so many people have been victims of fraud by giving their credit card number or checking account number.
Once I came to the courthouse and the misdemeanors were cleared, I would be given a cashier's check to reimburse me for my time, mileage, and the money that I had put on the money-packs. I was asked my checkpoint mileage each place I went to make sure that they had my mileage properly for the reimbursement.
The caller insisted that I remain on the telephone, that I could not hang up or do anything to jeopardize coming directly to the sheriff's office. I was not to tell anyone about what was happening, that if anyone asked, I was to pretend that nothing was amiss, and that I was going about my normal everyday activities.
I told him that I did not have sufficient funds to pay with cash, and he assured me that it didn't matter how I obtained the money, that it just needed to be done with cash. I had my adult daughter with disabilities with me in the car, and rather than taking her home as originally planned, I kept her with me. I didn't want her to be overly concerned for my welfare, not knowing the outcome of what was happening.
I obtained the money from my bank account. I was told to go to a specific store for the money pack, and the caller said that he had contacted them ahead of time to make sure that they had them in stock. Each time I went in, I was not to turn off my vehicle, as that would end the call and jeopardize my compliance.
How I Realized What Was Happening
Once I obtained the money-packs, he wanted me to scratch off the silver cover on the numbers of the money-packs and give it to him. I accused him of being a fraud and told him that I wouldn't give him the money until I saw his ID. He then proceeded to tell me that law enforcement would be at my side shortly and they would arrest me and take me to jail. At that moment, I saw it in my mind's eye: me being hauled off to jail and my daughter with disabilities going off the deep end.
I made a choice that $500 was nothing to me, that if this was legitimate, I would get the money back. If it was not, I would be out $500. I gave him the numbers. He kept me on the phone for the next hour, indicating that the numbers were being processed so that my misdemeanors would be released.
Once I arrived at the courthouse, I was to wait in my car while they continued with the processing, then I was assured that they would bring me inside the courthouse where I would be able to complete the paperwork, get my money back, and walk away.
The fellow came on the phone periodically to make sure that I was still there and to assure me that I would come in soon.
It never happened. The call ended.
At that point, I went to the sheriff's office and they said that I had to report it to the Bismarck City Police. I did so. They sent an officer out to talk to me.
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There is nothing that can be done, he said. I had fallen for a scam.
Know the Warning Signs
All during the phone call, I was questioning myself and the caller, "Is this fraud?" Once the incident was over, and I was studying over in my mind what had happened, I knew the warning signs.
1. Using Personal Information to Gain Your Trust
The caller knew my name, my address, the fact that I had received a letter recently summoning me for jury duty, and that I had not served. He knew the layout of the city in relationship to my location and where businesses were located. He led me to believe that this was a legitimate phone call.
2. Promising Compensation
All throughout the call, I was promised that I would be compensated for my time (I was asked for the mileage on my vehicle at each stop), my trouble (I was promised that I could complete paperwork to file a grievance), my missed work (I was told I would be given an excuse indicating that I had served jury duty), and the money put on the money-packs (I was told that I would receive a cashiers check to give the money back that was not used to clear my record).
3. Restricting Your Communications With Others
The caller indicated that I needed to remain on the telephone during the entire time between when I received the call and arrived at the sheriff's office. I was told repeatedly not to hang up the telephone or to talk to anyone about what was happening. I felt as if I was being held at gunpoint.
4. Using Lower-Quality Technology
Several times during the call, I had to have the caller repeat what he was saying because the call would break up and I couldn't hear the instructions given. He claimed that he needed to get another headset that worked better. I was afraid that I would do something wrong and lose my credibility and legal standing as an honest citizen.
5. Threatening Your Personal Well-Being
I was threatened with immediate arrest if I did not comply with the directives given. I was given no recourse but to comply or else law enforcement would be at my side and take me into custody.
6. Using Your Lack of Knowledge Against You
Not knowing what "green-dot money-packs" were and how they functioned, I was duped into thinking that the money would not be released until I arrived at the sheriff's office and gave the receipts to the person there. I was told to scrape the silver strip off the money-pack so that the caller could check to see that I had put the proper amount of money on it, all the while claiming that the money would not be transferred until I arrived at the office.
7. Challenging Your Honesty and Integrity
Several times during the call, I used the same tactics that were used on me, telling him that I didn't believe him, that I felt this was a fraud, and that I needed some kind of ID to show that he was actually who he claimed I was. He challenged me for being uncooperative and not being honest with him. I felt I had to prove him wrong.
8. Keeping You Questioning What Is Happening
All throughout the call, I was questioning what was happening, not believing it was legitimate, and wondering how I could get out of it. I felt trapped, as though there was no other recourse than to comply so that I could get the event over with and go on with my life.
9. Using Fear Tactics to Get You to Act
The caller used threats of arrest, threats that my name would not be cleared, and threats that I had to give him the information off the money-packs in order for him to finish processing my information so that everything would be ready when I came into the sheriff's office and completed the necessary to paperwork.
10. Stalling for Time
Once I arrived at the courthouse, he kept stalling for time, saying that everything was still processing and saying that I needed to wait before coming in to complete the paperwork. While I was waiting, he would come on the line periodically and ask how I was doing.
How to React to a Fraudulent Call
Once the line went dead while I was waiting, I knew I had been the victim of fraud. I went to the sheriff's office and saw the phone number on the outside of the door to report a crime. I called, and since I was in city limits, they told me to call the police.
Once the police came, I related the incident. They filed a report, but nothing could be done to recover the funds. They told me of others who had similar experiences, given their bank account or credit card information, and lost thousands.
Since the event, I have thought many times about what happened. There are several things I wish I had done.
1. Hang Up the Phone
All it would have taken to stop the whole thing was for me to hang up the phone. I had done it many times in the past when I thought I was receiving a fraudulent call. If it was really the sheriff's office, they would have called me back.
2. Turn Off the Car
I was in the car for the majority of the phone call, and it was coming through my Bluetooth speakers in the car. Turning off the car would have disconnected the phone call and given me time to think.
3. Ask for a Call-Back Number
If I would have asked for a call-back number and then hung up, I could have called the sheriff's department number locally to see if this was a legitimate event. I could have stopped the intimidation long enough to think clearly.
4. Allow the Consequences to Happen
If I had allowed them to go through with the "arrest" rather than giving them money, I would have found out that it was a scam.
5. Follow Your Gut Instinct
I knew in my gut that it was a scam, but I wanted to believe that it was real, that this wasn't happening to me, and that society was not this cruel.
- Government Imposter Scams | FTC Consumer Information
Scammers sometimes impersonate government officials—and tempt you with bogus lottery and sweepstakes "winnings"—to get you to send money.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Denise W Anderson