When the Osage County Sheriff’s Office is fixing to arrest folks, deputies don’t call ahead of time and ask for credit-card payments to allow defendants to avoid getting cuffed and hauled off to the jailhouse.
“That’s not the way we conduct our business,” said First Deputy Charlie Cartwright. “If we’re going to arrest someone, we go out and arrest them.”
But a well-designed scam has some folks falling for such demands. One man lost about $8,000, believing he was talking to Osage County deputies and would be arrested if he didn’t make payments and make them quickly, Osage County First Deputy Charlie Cartwright said Tuesday .
The Sheriff’s Office has called in the FBI to help investigate the scam, which is believed to orginate with an organized crime ring out of India that is routing calls through Florida.
Here’s how the scam works, says the real Cartwright, who has been impersonated by at least one scammer:
Victims, at some point, have filled out a credit application for a payday loan over the Internet. They get no response to the credit application and go on about their lives, but eventually get a call from someone posing as a deputy sheriff accusing them of fraud on the credit application. The fake deputy seems real because he gives the name of a real deputy and has access to personal information from the credit application that has been cross-matched with court records in Osage County, which are available on the Internet. The targets of the scam have had, as Cartwright puts it, “contact with the judicial system.”
The fake deputy demands payment by credit card within an hour or two or threatens to arrest the target of the scam. Frightened, the target pays.
Sometimes, there’s a hint that something isn’t right: The fake deputy has an Indian accent in some cases, but not always. Cartwright said the scammer who posed as him had only a slight accent, one that was just a little off. He left a voicemail for his victim.
In one case, the victim made several credit card payments of between $500 and $1,200 that totaled about $8,000. The money ended up in Florida then is believed to have been routed to India. “The FBI is looking at that,” Cartwright said.
Cartwright said that the Sheriff’s Office believes that there could be several victims of the scam in Osage County but that they have not reported it because they truly fear they are going to be arrested. That is not the case, he said: Investigators want victims to step forward to report the crimes against them so they can put a stop to the scam. Please call 918-287-3535 if you have been a victim.
The same scam, which preys on members of society who are vulnerable to believing the scammers, has successfully bilked money from victims in other states.
“And now,” Cartwright said, “it’s come to our rural county.”