THOMASVILLE — A woman who answered the phone at the Thomasville office where she is employed was about to enter a harrowing scam experience.
The scammer called the front desk at the business and asked for the woman. The call was transferred to her.
The caller identified himself as a Leon County, Florida, deputy and provided a badge number.
He also provided the victim with federally-issued citation numbers for failing to appear in court and for failure to comply with a judge's order.
The imposter deputy told the woman she owed $4,500 in fines, said Sgt. Scott Newberry, Thomasville Police Department Criminal Investigations Division assistant commander.
The woman was instructed to go to her Tallahassee bank and withdraw $5,000. She complied.
"He had her cell phone number," Newberry said.
The scammer called the woman on her cell phone and kept her on the phone while she was en route to Tallahassee and while she was at the bank — a total of about two hours.
She was instructed not to tell her husband or anyone else about the activity, or they would become involved in a federal case.
"He was playing a good game," Newberry said of the scammer. "They're getting better and better. They're getting more elaborate with their schemes."
The woman obtained a $5,000 money pack card at the bank. The card can be used as a debit card, and the recipient can withdraw money, the officer said.
The woman was instructed to buy a second card, but the bank refused, pointing out that fraud was a possibility.
She eventually flagged down a law enforcement officer in Leon County.
"He told her there was no federal case," Newberry said.
Law enforcement will never call someone and say they can pay a fine directly to the caller.
"We just pick you up," Newberry said.
The officer's advice for suspected phone scams is to hang up.
Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820