SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCBD)– Last week, Patti Travasos Winders received a voicemail from a man claiming to be a Summerville police officer.
In the message, the caller identified himself as Lieutenant Tim Jones and asked Winders to return the call to discuss a pending investigation.
According to the Summerville Police Department, there is an officer by that name. The phone number contained a local area code and the same prefix as the police department’s phone numbers.
Winders describes the call, “He said, ‘can I ask you why you were not in court on October 8th as a witness in a juvenile case. We subpoenaed you at your Summerville office with two police officers on August 6th and you signed the subpoena stating you would be there’ and I said, ‘no I didn’t, that wasn’t me, I am so sorry I would have been there’.
The man provided the correct address for her office.
The scammer allegedly told Winders she had two outstanding $1,500 fines for missing the alleged court hearings. She was told she was in contempt of court and that there were bench warrants out for her arrest.
“It’s all these terms you have no idea and of course I want to help and I am thinking what juvenile do I know and how am I supposed to help them,” she said. “They didn’t allow me to think or hang up the phone,” she added.
The caller told Winders he could not provide any details about the case because it involved a juvenile. She was under strict orders to not tell anyone or hang up the phone under the premise of a an alleged gag order.
“I even asked the guy, ‘does a juvenile mean 18 or 21 years old?’ He had an answer for everything and he said, ‘no mam, it means 18?,'” she said.
The man told Winders they could go over all the details together at the Summer Police Department.
Winders was told to stop by the ATM to pay the alleged outstanding fines on the way to the department. She was directed to transfer $3,000 but could only send $1,250 because of her daily limit.
Minutes before she arrived at the station the call dropped.
“I walked in and said, ‘I need to speak with Lieutenant Jones,’ and they said, ‘we just spoke with him he hasn’t been on the phone with you for 63 minutes you have been scammed,'” she said.
Winders, a young professional, said she was shocked to learn she was successfully scammed.
“You think you know that gut feeling but you don’t because it sounds so real it wasn’t, ’email me my aunt is sick,’ it was, ‘you missed court hearing and we have signature to prove that you knew about it,’ so of course I am scared and I am following the rules. I just didn’t know it wasn’t a real person with the rules,” she said.
Lieutenant Chris Hirsch with the Summerville Police Department said officers will not call people to pay for alleged fines.
“No law enforcement agency including Sumemrville Police Department Will ever demand any sort of money, gift cards, or anything of monetary value for an outstanding warrant,” he said. “It is just not going to happen,” he added.
Winders filed a report with the police department and reported the charges to her credit card company but Hirsch said tracking the scammers down is very difficult.
“These scammers, they are really good at what they do they do this all day long and it is really hard to catch these individuals because there is no way to tack the [phone] numbers,” said Hirsch.