Delaware police officials have been receiving reports that scammers are pretending to be law-enforcement officers in order to bilk victims out of money.
Capt. Adam Moore said two victims have filed reports about scammers threatening them with legal action in the past month. Several others, he said, have called police to mention they may have been the target of a similar scam without filing an official report.
On March 8, a Delaware woman received a phone call from a man who claimed to be an officer with the Delaware County Police Department -- an agency that does not exist.
The man told the woman she had missed jury duty and now needed to send him money in order to avoid criminal charges.
Moore said shortly before that report came in, a city resident contacted the department and said a man claiming to be a Worthington police officer told the resident he could pay to have an arrest warrant forgiven.
Moore said common sense prevailed in both cases, and the intended victims sent no money to the phony officers. He said scammers are playing off residents' fears and lack of knowledge about the legal system.
"I don't know of any law enforcement that would call you to tell you that you had a warrant for your arrest and demand money from you," he said.
The victim of a similar scam was not so lucky.
On March 21, a Delaware man sent $642 to a caller who said the victim owed him money and threatened legal action. Another scammer pretending to be a lawyer called back later and demanded a larger sum, leading the victim to call the police and report the incident.
Moore said there are potential red flags residents can listen for during a suspicious call.
He said an unsolicited phone call involving money should always be met with a healthy amount of suspicion.
"A lot of folks will call (the department) and say, 'Hey, we won the Scandinavian lottery,' " Moore said. "The first question we ask is, 'Did you sign up for the Scandinavian lottery?' "
A caller demanding payment by money order, gift card or other hard-to-track sources also should raise a red flag.
If the call involves a legal matter, Moore said there is an easy way to determine whether the caller is legitimate. The potential victim can politely end the conversation, hang up and call the supposed source of the message, whether it be a police station or county court.
Moore said anyone who receives a suspicious call from someone demanding money should call the Delaware Police Department at 740-203-1111 or contact the Ohio Attorney General's Office.
Moore said many scam calls originate outside the country, so it can be difficult to bring offenders to justice. Still, he said police officials will do everything they can to prevent these crimes and catch the offenders.
"They're impersonating law enforcement officers," he said. "Obviously, we take great issue with that."