Cop impersonator scams victims out of hundreds of dollars

SEATTLE --  A con artist posing as a sheriff’s deputy is taking advantage of law-abiding citizens.

He’s already scammed a number of people out of hundreds of dollars.

The scam is pretty simple -- all the scammer needs is a phone. He calls the victims, saying there is a warrant for their arrest and the only way to clear up the warrant is to pay up.

Nelson Knight is an expert when it comes to golf, he can’t say the same when it comes to the justice system.

“I’ve never done anything wrong in my entire life,” Knight said

So Knight was surprised when he got this message Monday morning.

“I am looking for Mr. Nelson Knight. My name is Lt. Tom Smith with the King County Sheriff’s Warrants Division. Get back to me as soon as you can, Sir. There is a warrant to process your arrest, a bench warrant for failure to appear, on your behalf.”

“It was a pretty convincing voice mail, the wheels started turning and I wanted to get myself out of trouble as quickly as I could,” Knight said.

When he called back, Knight was told there was a warrant because he failed to show up for jury duty.

“He informed me that if I were to be pulled over, I could be arrested because there was a warrant out for my arrest,” Knight said.

The scammer claimed the only way to get a court date to dispute the situation was to pay his fines -- a whopping  $500.

Knight isn’t the only one who paid up.

“We are getting a few of these calls throughout the region. The person seems to be using the same number. This person is preying on those who just don’t know the system,” King County sheriff's detective Jason Stanley said.

The scammer is ordering his victims to buy gift cards to pay the fines, an unusual demand that should have been the biggest red flag.

“The sheriff’s office would call you to talk about a warrant; we would never try to collect money over the phone,” Stanley said.

In fact, fines have to go through the courts.

It’s an expensive lesson for Knight, who says he could have avoided the scam if he had just called the sheriff’s office to verify.

“I am sitting here today with egg on my face. I was taken advantage of, so it is pretty frustrating,” Knight said.

The scammer is still out there; the problem is that the phone is not traceable.