Sheriff deputies avoiding phones amid spate of scam calls

Scammers have been posing as this man, Bay County Sheriff's Sgt. Michael Shore, and demanding money over the phone to avoid fake legal trouble.
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BAY COUNTY (WJRT) (6/6/2019) - Phone scams are hitting the Bay County Sheriff's Office so hard that it's forced to change the way it communicates.

The sheriff's office has dealt with several phone scams over the years. So now, people who want to speak with a deputy will likely have to do it face to face.

People have been getting a call purportedly from Bay County Sheriff's Sgt. Michael Shore, saying they had a legal matter they had to take care of. Shore is not making the calls.

"I would come in to work the next day, I would have 20 voice messages," he said.

The people leaving messages -- many of them doctors -- were trying to find out why there would be in trouble. Scammers claimed they missed a court date or jury duty and they had to pay money to avoid arrest.

Sheriff Troy Cunningham believes someone most likely from out of the country found Shore's name on the internet, knows he works for the Bay County Sheriff's Office, and tries to get people to call back a Birch Run-area phone number to pay off their legal debt via a Google Play Card.

Cunningham said this scam, along with all the others, have cost people big time.

"In the last couple of weeks we have about $15,000 to $20,000 paid out," he said.

Other scams involving the sheriff's department include people getting calls from what appears to be the sheriff's department, again demanding money for their fake legal trouble.

Because of the scams, Cunningham is having his deputies avoid using phones when contacting people about complaints and investigations.

"We are changing the way we are doing things, before we used to do a lot over the phone," he said. "Sending a deputy to that house so they know they are talking to a uniformed deputy with a marked patrol unit in their driveway so they know its legit and they are not getting scammed over the phone."

Shore actually contacted the man who was posing as him, but wasn't able to identify the imposter.

"I was talking to Sgt. Michael Shore, right," he said. "It was kind of weird talking to myself."