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Family court judge warning residents of scam

Posted: November 1, 2018 5:20 p.m.
Updated: November 2, 2018 1:00 a.m.

Family Court Judge Dana Morris wants local residents to know about a scam being perpetrated by people claiming to be actual Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office deputies and invoking his name as a court official.

Morris said at least two people he knows have been targeted by the scammers and there may be other victims.

“They’re calling people claiming to be these deputies saying I’ve signed a bench warrant for their arrest for failing to appear at a jury trial,” Morris said.

That’s just the first part of the scheme, he said. Next, the scammers will claim that they have an hour to an hour and a half to go to a local grocery store to clear up the matter by spending up to $2,000 on a money order or other monetary instruments.

“First of all, I do issue bench warrants for failing to appear, but family court doesn’t hold jury trials, so I’m not going to issue warrants for that,” Morris explained, adding that he also issues warrants for not paying child support or violating other family court orders.

He also said law enforcement officers won’t tell citizens to go to a grocery store to spend money to resolve a legal issue.

“Neither of the victims I know are involved in family court. I think they’re targeting people who they think can come up with that much cash quickly. I hope they catch them,” said Morris, who agreed that if the scammers are ever caught, they could be charged with impersonating law enforcement and a court official.

Unfortunately, Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews and Camden Police Chief Joe Floyd both said it can be difficult to catch up to such suspects.

“They’re very hard to identify. Sometimes they are making these calls from out of state or even from outside the country,” Matthews said; Floyd said the same.

The sheriff agreed with Morris that law enforcement officers are not going to ask citizens to send money to take care of a legal issue.

“They tend to target older citizens who grew up in a day when people didn’t do this, and they don’t want to get into trouble,” Matthews said.

Floyd said the biggest part of such scams is the threat his officers or Matthews’ deputies are going to lock up someone for -- as in a previous case -- not appearing for jury duty.

“The whole idea of spending money to solve a legal issue is part of the scam,” Floyd said. “If they are trying to get you to use a gift card or Green Dot card for any legal matter, you know right there it’s a scam.”

The chief said the key to these scams is creating fear about going to jail. He suggested that if someone claims to be law enforcement, call the agency they claim to work for and ask questions.

“Even if you get a call from an actual law enforcement officer, you have the right to question them,” Floyd said. “It is a reasonable request for you to ask them to prove they are who they say they are. We do call citizens and if they question us, we’ll say, ‘Here’s the department’s phone number. I’m going to hang up and you look up the phone number to confirm it’s the right one and then call back and ask for me.’”

Floyd said his department would rather get those calls because it might lead to exposing a scam.

If you believe you’ve been the target of such a scheme, call either the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office at (803) 425-1512 or the Camden Police Department at (803) 425-6025.

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