GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. (FOX 5 Atlanta) - Someone is pretending to be a cop to try to steal your money. Someone is using the actual names and badge numbers of Gwinnett County police officers threatening to arrest people if they don’t pay up. And one of the officers is a familiar face you may already know, the public information officer for the Gwinnett County Police Department.
In a 911 call from a concerned citizen, a caller told the dispatcher her friend received a call with the threat of arrest if she didn’t pay a fine from someone identifying himself as Gwinnett County Police Sargent Jake Smith.
“She just got a phone call from a Sgt. Jake Smith, saying that she has two warrants for her arrest,” she said on the call.
Sgt. Smith told FOX 5 News the scam definitely rubs him the wrong way.
“I don’t like it that they used either my name or the Gwinnett County Police Department to try to extort money from people,” said Sgt. Smith.
Sgt. Smith may be familiar to many because he is a public information officer for the department. He’s been seen on TV many times at various crime scenes and events explaining details for the public. The use of his name in this scam he said is similar to other scams except the scammer pretends to be a cop and is demanding payment via the digital currency bitcoin.
“Elements of it remain the same in that bitcoin and the old green dot cards, the wire transfer. None of it can be traced and that’s what they’re looking for in these extortion schemes,” said Smith.
Gwinnett County resident Edward Hughes said he doesn’t understand how the scam can be effective.
“Who can pay in a bitcoin, I don’t know how to do that. I’m sure most people don’t how to do it. I hear it’s getting easier but I don’t know,” said Hughes.
He and others who spoke to FOX 5 News said the notion of a police officer calling and requesting payment could be very effective, whether for a traffic violation, something more serious or nothing at all.
“Anytime you see like the police calling you or behind you, you automatically get that little bit of did I do something wrong,” said Kelly Quartermaine, who lives in Barrow County.
Sgt. Smith said there have likely been dozens of unreported scam calls using their department’s name and officers’ names like his.
“If somebody is claiming to be an officer, we will make contact by phone but we never going to ask for money,” said Sgt. Smith.
He said the calls are very likely coming from overseas on a disguised phone number.