Northampton Sheriff David Doughty is warning local citizens to stay vigilant against scams during the holiday season.

The Northampton County Sheriff’s Office recently received complaints advising that residents were told they would go to jail if they didn’t pay a fee over the phone. The callers portrayed themselves as a deputy with the Sheriff’s Office. In more cases, the number that is displayed on the caller ID can be spoofed and will be the actual number of the business or agency claiming to represent.

If you are unsure of whom you are speaking to, Sheriff Doughty encourages Northampton residents to hang up immediately and call the Northampton Sheriff’s office immediately at 757-678-0458.

“Our deputies encourage you to verify who you are speaking with. Our dispatchers work 24/7 and would be happy to answer your call. No law enforcement officer is going to contact you on the phone trying to collect money for fees or fines.”

Scammers may already know a lot about you or the person they are pretending to be. They may know your name, where you live and other information they could have found on social media or by hacking a family member’s email. Sometimes they simply guess. However, they always say that you need to pay right away by wiring money, sending a money order, paying with gift cards or reloadable cards.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, here are other tactics scammers use in fake emergency scams:

  • Scammers usually present themselves as an “authority figure,” like a lawyer, police officer or doctor. They think it makes them sound more convincing.
  • They will tell you it’s important to keep it secret because they don’t want you talking to other family members and friends who will likely realize its a scam.
  • Scammers play with your emotions. They are counting on you to act quickly to help your family or friends and they’re counting on you to pay without stopping to check out whether there’s really an emergency. If you get a call like this, you can be sure its a scam.

Please report any of these incidents to your local Sheriff’s Department. In Northampton call 757-678-0458. In Accomack call 757-787-1131.

More information may also be found at the Federal Trade Commissions website, where you can report suspected fraud.