Jefferson City municipal court warns about phone scam

2 months 1 week 5 days ago Thursday, September 28 2017 Sep 28, 2017 Thursday, September 28, 2017 3:03:00 AM CDT September 28, 2017 in News
By: Mackenzie Huck, KOMU 8 Reporter
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JEFFERSON CITY - Residents in Jefferson City say they have received phone calls from a person claiming to be with the municipal court, demanding payment on overdue traffic tickets. On caller ID, it shows the court's number. However, City Counselor Ryan Moehlman says the call is definitely not from the municipal court.

"Our department started receiving calls from people who said they had missed calls from the municipal court number," Moehlman said. "Later that afternoon, we had people saying they had talked to someone who said he was with the municipal court and was demanding financial information. They said, 'Hey, do you know anything about that?' Of course, we knew nothing about it."

There has been a 13% increase in scam phone calls since last year. Sixty-nine percent of respondents to a survey by telecom service company First Orion say they received at least one scam call over the past six months.

Moehlman said the court has alerted both the police department and its I.T. department. In addition, there is a warning on the Jefferson City website about the phone scam.

While the I.T. department was researching the problem, Moehlman said it discovered a possible scam similar to this in Boone County. 

"This is all fairly recently, so it looks as though someone has an M.O. and what they're doing right now is targeting people in Mid-Missouri by using governmental phone numbers," Moehlman said.

The municipal court will never ask for financial information over the phone. If you have an outstanding ticket, a judge will issue a warrant and you could be subject to arrest, but Moehlman said "generally, the police will not go out actively searching for someone with a warrant for minor traffic violations."

"As soon as someone asks for that kind of information, you should end that call immediately."

Moehlman said the easiest way to check on overdue traffic tickets is to go to the municipal court building and ask about the tickets in person.

There have not been reports of any money actually being sent to the scammer. Moehlman said it does not appear that the scammer is targeting a certain group of people.

"We didn't see a pattern with the people who were calling to report so I'm guessing he was just trying to test out as many numbers as he could to get people," Moehlman said.

Moehlman said the municipal court has reached out to CenturyLink telephone company to get additional information. Centurylink is currently investigating. 

If you receive a suspicious phone call from the Jefferson City municipal court, you can report it to the court directly or to the Attorney General's office. The FTC also has tips on its website for how to handle a potential scam call.

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