Man pretending to be a cop calling people in Okeechobee to scam them out of money

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. - Be careful the next time you answer the phone. There may be a scam artist on the other end.

On Monday one woman was scammed out of $750 and she wasn't the only victim in Okeechobee County.

"He says don't get scared but there's a warrant for your arrest," says Wilma Williams.

Wilma Williams says the man claimed to be Lt. James Hall with the Okeechobee County Sheriff's Office and told her she had missed a court date.

"I didn't show up in court I think he said on march 14 or something like that and I said but I didn't get no summons to go to court so how could I show up and he even knows the judge's name," says Williams,

"He says in front of Judge Bryant."

Wilma Williams says the man told her she had to pay a $200 fine.

"He hung up for some reason cause I told him I don't have that kind of money when he started naming off all this money," says Wilma Williams.

She called the sheriff's office who told her they don't have a Lt. James Hall.

"I was really surprised that it was a scam because he kind of fooled me," says Peter Williams.

Peter Williams, no relation to Wilma Williams, lives a few miles away in Okeechobee. He received a similar phone call Monday afternoon.

"He was making it sound like it was a very urgent situation," says Peter Williams.

Peter Williams says the man spoke calmly, was very direct and used words often said by police officers.

The fake Lt. Hall wanted to speak to Williams' wife but didn't say why.

"He said he was not at liberty to discuss that with me," says Peter Williams.

Police haven't caught the man. WPTV called the number used by the fake deputy and got this recording:

"This is Lt. James Hall with the Okeechobee County Sheriff's Department. I was not available to take your call but if you will leave me a detailed message and your number I will get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you."

It's easy to fool you into falling for one of these ripoffs.

Consumer Watchdog Jenn Strathman has five warning signs to prevent from becoming a victim of a scam:

1. Someone who preys on your emotions with a sob story. Listen for an aggressive tone or someone who threatens punishment.

2. Be aware of someone who wants money immediately. Thieves want you to wire money immediately or send a prepaid debit or credit card.

3. Don't rely on caller ID. Thieves can spoof or fake a phone number to make it look legitimate, like it's from the Palm Beach County Sheriff or IRS. Hang up and search for a phone number for the company yourself and call them back to confirm legitimacy.

4. Don't fall for vague questions to verify personal information. Ask the caller what they know about you.

5. Thieves can be persistent and refuse to stop calling you. If it's really the police they'll contact you in another way.

The Okeechobee County Sheriff's Office says it will never call you asking for money. If you do get a call or have information about this scam contact the sheriff's office at 863-763-3117.

Consumer Watchdog Jenn Strathman contributed to this story.


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