Sheriff’s Office offers tips to the public to help prevent phone scams from succeeding

No law enforcement officer will ever demand payment or request financial details over the phone, department stresses

Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has released a public service announcement (PSA) to raise awareness about phone scams and help members of the public “protect themselves from becoming victims,” the department announced on April 22.

“Although phone scams have taken many forms over the years,” a news release says, “recently fake callers are claiming to be a sergeant or lieutenant with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office,” informing victims that the officer has an arrest warrant for the person because he or she did not show up for court, “forgetting to pay a fine, or skipping jury duty.”

The release adds, “The scammer claims the victim owes money for these offenses and must issue payment immediately via mobile bank transfer, gift card or pre-paid debit card. Scammers often speak quickly and use an authoritative tone to put pressure on the citizen so he or she will agree to send money,” the release points out.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office wants the public to know “that agency members will never demand payment or request personal financial information over the telephone. If a citizen receives a call from a suspected phone scammer regarding an alleged arrest warrant or demand for payment of civic fines,” the individual should remember to be “S.C.A.M. smart,” the release notes:

  • “Stop and take a breath. Scammers will put you on the spot and make you feel rushed.
  • “Collect your thoughts. If the call seems suspicious, it probably is.
  • “Act swiftly, disengage the caller and hang up the phone.”
  • Make a report to local law enforcement officers.

In 2020 alone, the release says, more than 1,200 cases of fraud were reported to the Sheriff’s Office.

“These phone scams are happening every day, which is why we put together this PSA,” said Sheriff Kurt A. Hoffman in the release. “While this common scam may seem obvious to some, the community would be appalled to know how many vulnerable citizens have been taken advantage of right here in Sarasota County. We owe it to our parents, friends and neighbors to look out for one another,” Hoffman added.

“If you or a loved one has been the recent victim of a scam,” the release asks that the individual contact the Sheriff’s Office at 941-316-1201 to make a report. Persons also are encouraged to contact Florida’s Division of Consumer Services’ toll-free helpline at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236) for assistance.