Alerts Newsletter

Scam of the Month: Sheriff Impersonation

The Office of Information Security observes a trend in which criminals impersonate the sheriff’s office over the telephone. These scammers claim you signed for a subpoena, are an expert witness, or are a juror and never showed up for court and then demand payment. Along with a false accusation, scammers may list your personal information to make it seem like they are from the government. Sometimes they spoof phone numbers on caller ID to make the call seem authentic. Ultimately, the scammers ask you to pay money for your “fine” via services like Apple Pay or at a “bond agency.”

Genuine law enforcement may call you if you have a warrant, but an officer will never ask for payment. Here is a list of suspicious activity to look for in this kind of scam:

  • Law enforcement stating you have fines for outstanding warrants.
  • Law enforcement stating the court is holding you in contempt for failure to appear for jury duty.
  • Law enforcement saying you are not allowed to speak with anyone else regarding the matter.
  • Law enforcement demanding you remain on the line until the “bond” is paid.
  • Requests for monetary gift cards (visa/green dot etc.), bank deposits, and voucher purchases to clear court fines or avoid jail time.
  • Requests for videos or pictures of individuals conducting a personal strip search of themselves to clear court fines or avoid jail time.

Anyone receiving a call from someone claiming to be law enforcement should hang up and call the office they claim to be from. If you are with the medical school, call WashU Protective Services at 314-362-4357 and report it to their investigations department. If you are with the Danforth campus, instead call WUPD at 314-935-5555.

Never give out any sensitive info over the phone, and report the scam to the FBI at Internet Crime Complaint Center(IC3) | File a Complaint. The Federal Trade Commission will also provide recovery steps, share information with more than 3,000 law enforcement agencies, and take your report at

Any victims who disclosed personally identifiable information, like a social security number, can report the identity theft at and get a recovery plan.


Individuals Spoofing Law Enforcement Phone Numbers to Scam Victims. (2021, November 22). Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Additional Resources

Phishing | Office of Information Security | Washington University in St. Louis
Phishing 101 | Office of Information Security | Washington University in St. Louis

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