For Immediate Release
PR #:1900027
Date Issued:Mar 22, 2019 - 2:12pm

Phone scammers are getting more creative and the Washoe County Sheriff's Office reminds residents to stay alert

CONTACT:Bob Harmon
Washoe County Sheriff's Office
Office 775-785-6235
Cell 775-722-5517

The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office continues to receive calls on a daily basis from residents concerned about suspicious phone calls. Based on the information received, there are some concerning new twists to scam callers impersonating law enforcement and demanding payment for outstanding warrants.     

In one scam that appears to be particularly active right now involves, the scammer, usually impersonating a law enforcement office, calls a potential victim and states that their Social Security number has been compromised, is somehow related to criminal activity, and that there is an outstanding warrant. The scammer demands immediate payment to avoid arrest.  

Recent DNA technology has also inspired a new twist to these warrant scams. Again the scammers take the guise of law enforcement. This time they tell the potential victim that their DNA has been located at a crime scene or as part of a narcotics investigation. Scammers claim that warrants exist as a result and arrest is imminent without immediate payment.

Warrant scammers typically demand payment by bitcoin or gift card.  

“Asking for payment by gift card should be an immediate red flag,” Washoe County Sheriff Darin Balaam said. “Law enforcement will never ask a person to settle an outstanding warrant by purchasing a gift card and providing the P.I.N. information over the phone.

“If you are being threatened with a warrant over the phone, I encourage you to get off the phone and contact the appropriate law enforcement agency directly.”

Other currently active phone scams include:

IRS Scam: Scammer impersonates IRS agent and demands immediate payment of overdue taxes or fines. For more information about IRS scams, go to www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box.

Sweepstakes Scam: These scammers tell the potential victim they’ve just won a prize of very high value, but first there are payments to make to cover taxes or some other trumped up expense. The bottom line is, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Online Dating: Scammers will develop a relationship through online dating services, then start asking the potential victim for money to cover a joint travel adventure, sudden medical expenses, etc.. The more money a victim gives, the more the scammer will ask for.

Grandparents Scam: The scammers often have the grandchild’s name and area where they live when they contact the potential victim. Scammers pose as the grandchild or as an “attorney” for the grandchild to request money to bail the child out of jail, or to help pay hospital bills because the child was hit by a car.

“Personal and financial information should never be given out over the phone unless you've made the call and you are sure you know the person who you are talking with,” Sheriff Balaam said. “It’s important for people to understand that if they are uncomfortable with a phone call, they should hang up without providing any information to the caller.”

Because public awareness is one of the keys to prevention, Sheriff’s Balaam reminds residents to stay alert for telephone scams and to talk with friends and family about the current rash of scams.

“No matter how aggressive a caller may be, get off the phone and verify their credibility independently,” Sheriff Darin Balaam said. “Your safety, and the safety of your personal information, come first.”

If you have been the victim of a phone scam, report the crime to the appropriate law enforcement agency.


The Washoe County Sheriff's Office is dedicated to preserving a safe and secure community with professionalism, respect, integrity and the highest commitment to equality. Sheriff Darin Balaam is the 27th person elected to serve as the Sheriff of Washoe County since the Office was created in 1861. The Washoe County Sheriff's Office strives to ensure public safety by building trust and creating partnerships within the diverse communities in which we serve. We will promote the dignity of all people supported by our words and actions through open communication while fostering an environment of professionalism, integrity and mutual respect.

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