Scammers posing as sheriff's deputies targeting innocent victims

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- A scammer posing as a sheriff's deputy is calling people threatening to arrest them if they don't pay money. Now the real sheriff's department is telling people not to fall for the scam.

The calls are nothing new, but now the Harris County Sheriff's Office is looking into a new version of the scam that has already claimed one victim.

As a busy dentist Dr. Shelley Canada is used to getting phone calls, but nothing like the call she got this weekend.

"I wake up in a panic thinking, 'Oh my gosh! What have I done,'" said Canada.

This is the message that made the doctor very nervous: "My name is Lt. Starbur calling you in reference to a court proceeding, if you would call back immediately upon receiving this message so we can straighten this out without having to process a warrant."

The call from the person claiming to be a lieutenant with the Harris County Sheriff's Office caught the doctor off-guard.

"Last week I was supposed to be at jury duty, but I rescheduled it, maybe that didn't happen, I am in trouble," said Canada.

An hour later, her phone rang again.

"This is the second time trying to raise you, this is the Harris County Sheriff's Department, Lt. Starbur, and we need to hear back from you this afternoon to avoid the arrest process."

Instead of calling back, Dr. Canada turned to a friend and told them about the call. That friend happens to be a Harris County judge.

"So I call the judge, wake him up and he said, 'Shelley, you know there is not a warrant out for your arrest.' Let me just call and make sure," said Canada.

Turns out the judge is right, Dr. Canada is in the clear.

She then reported the call to real Harris County Sheriff's deputies who say the doctor is the third victim of these calls.

While the doctor did not give any money to the scammer, someone else did fall for the scam and did hand over money to the scammer.

"She was taken for between $500 and $800," said Thomas Gilliland with the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

HCSO investigators are trying to track down the scammer and officials remind everyone this is not how the sheriff's department deals with the public. If you get one of these calls, contact the real sheriff's department.
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