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New phone scam targets parents

Student with a ticket outstanding? Maybe it's just scammers


It was 8:11 a.m. and Lisa Godinez got a call that no parent ever wants to get.

Her daughter, the caller said, was in trouble. She’d picked up a ticket with a $256 fine and unless Godinez paid the ticket now a warrant would be put out for her daughter’s arrest.

Of course, for convenience the caller said they’d happily take a debit or credit card.

Godinez — livid — asked the caller who they were and what the ticket was for, but the caller wouldn’t state the cause.

“Unless you tell me what’s going on I’m not paying you a nickel,” Godinez said.

Her instinct was right. The caller wasn’t the Washington County Sheriff’s Office making a courtesy call, but a scammer looking to trick Godinez into paying up.

There were a few things that made Godinez curious about the call. The time, for one, nearly an hour before most government administrative offices open. And the fact that the caller wouldn’t cough up any info about the ticket or give her a name. But Godinez also knew that police departments don’t call to serve warrants.

“They just come get you,” Godinez said.

Even so, the caller was persistent. “Most parents pay without any trouble,” the caller told Godinez.

“Well I’m not most parents,” Godinez said.

After the call, Godinez texted her 22-year-old daughter Kayla.

“It was a fiasco all day until we could follow up,” Godinez said.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that Kayla didn’t have any tickets or warrants outstanding.

Sgt. Vance Stimler, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office said cases of fraud such as the one that targeted Godinez are hard to follow up on.

The perpetrators might be in another state or a foreign country.

“If they’re saying you won the lottery in Nigeria, we can’t go to Nigeria and make them stop,” Stimler said.

But the particulars of the scam targeting Godinez seem designed to snare as many people as possible. The story, that a son or daughter let a parking ticket slip and wound up with a bench warrant is a lot more plausible than others.

Stimler said a common phone scam involves a caller purporting to be a grandson looking for a wire transfer that will help them get out of trouble overseas. Another involves the caller posing as someone at a jail offering to release a son or daughter if the parent pays bail over the phone.

But the scam that targeted Godinez uses a more believable set up.

Stimler said he couldn’t find any record of others reporting the scam, but said the best way for people to combat it is to be aware and wary.

“You almost have to be cynical of everything,” Stimler said.




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