Island law enforcement warns about scam calls

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Island law enforcement departments warned Vineyarders about recent scam calls. — Eunki Seonwoo

Updated 2:54 pm

Island law enforcement departments posted on Facebook over the weekend to warn Martha’s Vineyard residents about scam calls that have come to their attention.

The Dukes County Sheriff’s Office and the Oak Bluffs Police Department warned about calls from someone impersonating a member of the sheriff’s office and threatening arrest on a warrant if a gift card payment is not made. 

“Dukes County Sheriff’s Office does not call members of the public requesting payment to clear warrants. If you receive a call like this, do not provide personal information or payment over the phone,” the sheriff’s office posted, advising those who believe they received a call from “someone pretending to be a Dukes County Sheriff’s representative” to contact the Dukes County Regional Emergency Communications Center’s non-emergency line at 508-693-1212 to receive assistance “verifying the authenticity of the call.”

Dukes County Sheriff’s Office public relations assistant Heather Arpin said it is uncertain whether these recent scams were spoof calls, which would show a false phone number to the receiver. However, spoof calls have happened before, with Island police departments’ and businesses’ numbers being used. “We have seen it before,” she said. 

Arpin told The Times that people should use common sense and not give personal information if they notice “red flags.” 

“The most important thing to use is caution,” Arpin said. “It’s unfortunately a very common scam.” 

As far as the sheriff’s office is aware, no one has lost money from the recent scams. 

The Tisbury Police Department and Edgartown Police Department also posted about scammers calling people to tell them they have a warrant and a fine must be paid. The departments advised Islanders who received suspicious calls to contact the police. It is uncertain whether the person making the “suspicious phone calls” mentioned in the two posts is the same impersonator from the sheriff’s office’s post, or if the caller pretended to be either a Tisbury or Edgartown Police Department representative. 

Tisbury Police Lt. Bill Brigham told The Times Wednesday afternoon that the post his department made was in relation to the sheriff’s office impersonator. 

In September, the West Tisbury Police Department warned Islanders about a spoof call that used the department’s own phone number. In that story, West Tisbury Police Chief Matt Mincone suggested those who want to learn more about fraudulent activities and how to avoid them should visit the Federal Trade Commission’s web page about scams.