CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Officials in Nueces, San Patricio, and Jim Wells Counties are warning residents about a new scam that started last week.
“There is a scammer out there who is calling people and telling them, ‘you missed jury duty, you owe us money,’” Nueces County Sheriff JC Hooper said.
Hooper said residents are getting calls from someone impersonating sheriff’s deputies, saying they missed jury duty and must now pay a fine.
The scammer is directing people to bitcoin ATMs, telling them to deposit money and send them the receipt.
“We’ll never call you on the phone and ask for some type of fine payment, especially a fine payment that would be deposited in a bitcoin ATM,” Hooper said. “That’s just not going to happen.”
A Corpus Christi business that has a bitcoin ATM learned about this scam and put a sign on its ATM that reads: “Beware of Scammers! Our Court House DOES ‘NOT’ Accept BitCoin.”
Kathryn Bainbridge is a Port Aransas resident who received the scammer’s call while she was at work.
She said the scammer gave her the options to spend time in jail, or pay the fine, so, not thinking, she agreed to pay the fine.
Bainbridge said the scammer insisted on being on the phone the entire time, and urged her to call back if they were disconnected.
She said the caller grew impatient with how long it took her to get to Corpus Christi from Port Aransas, but sent her to the business with the sign warning of the scam.
When she saw the sign, and the cashier saw what was happening, he got the owner, who stopped Bainbridge from depositing any money.
“She comes running out and she says, ‘no, do not put any money in, it’s a scam, it’s a scam.’ I said, ‘really?’ and she said, ‘yes,’” Bainbridge said. “And thank God I didn’t put any money in there.”
Hooper said law enforcement agencies will never solicit money online or by phone.
“If we have to deal with a case like that, we will deal with it face-to-face. You will be contacted by a uniformed officer,” he said. “We don’t deal with things over the internet or on the phone when it comes to fines.”
Hooper also said if someone receives a suspicious phone call, they should contact their local law enforcement agency.
“Be suspicious, and when in doubt, call the local police department, call your sheriff, and we’ll clarify it for you,” he said.