Sheriff warns of “outstanding warrant” scam

BOURNE – Barnstable County Sheriff Jim Cummings is warning Cape Cod residents about a sophisticated new phone scam, one the caller almost ensnared a long-time Cape business owner in a con he came close to biting on.

Thankfully, instead of biting on the con, the merchant brougt the scam to the attention of the Sheriff Office’s.

The attempted swindle unfolded Wednesday afternoon when someone claiming to be “Captain Brian Roland from the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office” called the office of the man he was trying to dupe.

The fictitious captain told the businessman he had missed a court appearance and was now being sought on an arrest warrant. Asked what the warrant was for, “Captain Roland” told him he had missed jury duty.

In order to avoid an embarrassing arrest and clear up the matter, the merchant was told he needed to show up at the Sheriff’s civil process office with two forms of ID and $1,996.05 as a surety bond.

The best way to make payment, the conniving imposter explained, was for the man to go to a Rite-Aid pharmacy and purchase a Green Dot card – essentially a pre-paid credit card. At this point, the man became suspicious, so instead of purchasing the card he withdrew $2,000 in cash and drove to the Sheriff’s civil process office in Barnstable Village – whereupon he discovered there was no “Captain Roland.” From there, the devious scenario quickly unraveled.

Had it been otherwise — had the man purchased the card and followed Captain Roland’s “helpful” advice — the stage would have been set for an electronic transfer of the money to the sham captain’s account. It would have been as simple as exchanging funds from one Green Dot card to another.

The businessman told the Sheriff’s Office that “Roland” was a smooth talker, used accurate terminology like “surety bond,” and spoke with the confident ease of someone familiar with law enforcement and court proceedings. But for a distinct Southern accent, the narrative may have taken a most unfortunate turn.

The real Sheriff Cummings observed how even a modicum of computer surfing “can bring swindlers like ‘Roland’ useful information right to their fingertips. It can help bait the trap.” For example, this particular con man knew his target’s business phone number, his home address, and the address for the Sheriff’s civil process office.

“There is a simple rule here,” cautioned the Sheriff. “People who work in law enforcement don’t solicit money for situations arising from court matters – civil or criminal. I’m glad this fellow didn’t become a victim, but it’s sobering to see how sophisticated these swindles have become.”