The Mason County Sheriff’s Office is investigating two styles of scams currently affecting Mason County-area residents. Both methods are designed to frighten or intimidate the victim into purchasing pre-paid cards or using wire transfers to send money to the scammer.
One method is the kidnapping scam. Mason and Thurston County-area residents are receiving calls from individuals claiming to have kidnapped one of the victim’s loved ones. The caller may have personal information that was gleaned from social media. The suspects are using multiple different people, including children, to yell such things as “help”, “mommy” and other fear-inducing phrases in the background. The caller demands a ransom to be paid via pre-paid credit cards or wire transfer. The caller ID on these calls often have a Mexico international prefix. No valid kidnap-for-ransom cases have been reported to MCSO.
The second method is the jury duty warrant scam. The victim receives a phone call from a person claiming to be a representative of the Sheriff’s Office. The caller claims that the victim failed to report for jury duty and will be arrested on a warrant unless a certain amount of money is paid. The victim is instructed to go to a local retail store, purchase a pre-paid credit card for a specific dollar amount and then call back the scammer. The victim then reads the numbers from the back of the card over the phone. Sometimes the victim is told to send money via wire transfer and give the caller the PIN. Mason County Sheriff’s Office does not conduct business in this manner.
Scammers use these methods because they are often untraceable. Wire transfer companies, such as Western Union, allow a person to retrieve money from any of their locations by using the corresponding PIN. With pre-paid credit cards, once the scammer receives the code from the back of the card, they can instantly withdraw or transfer the money for that card from a remote location.
Sheriff Casey Salisbury states “If you receive a call that a person has been kidnapped or endangered, advise the caller that you will follow their instructions. Once you hang up, immediately call 911 to report the situation. Then, verify the safety of the loved one that was allegedly kidnapped or endangered.”
If you receive a call about a jury duty warrant or other similar scam that is non-emergent, hang up and report the incident by calling the MACECOM non-emergency line at 360-426-4441.