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Kent County Levy Court warns of telephone scam

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This story has been updated.

DOVER — Kent County Levy Court on Tuesday issued a warning about a phone scam designed to steal money via $900 money orders.

Kent County Sheriff Brian Lewis said that, since Thursday, he’s gotten four reports from residents that they’d received calls from his office, indicating that “they had to pay a fine for not going to jury duty and would be arrested if they did not pay the fine.”

“Two people informed me that the person that called them gave a rank and badge number. Another person told me that the caller identified themselves as Sheriff Brenda Wootten, who is Kent County clerk of the peace.”

According to a statement from Levy Court, the scammers tell the victims to purchase $900 money orders and then to call back with the numbers on the orders. Sheriff Lewis said the calls targeted residents of Kent and Sussex counties.

“I explained to all four callers that no one from my office or I had contacted them and further informed them that my deputies do not have rank or numbers on their badges, so (it) couldn’t have been anyone from my office,” he said. “The sheriff’s office in Kent County ... does not deal with jurors or issue warrants for people’s arrests.

“The sheriffs in Delaware are not law enforcement and do not have arrest powers.”

Also Tuesday, Sussex County spokesman Chip Guy said, “Things like this are like whack-a-mole. These scams are ever-present. They pop up from time to time. This is an ongoing problem, and while I don’t want to minimize it in any way, we haven’t seen a recent uptick.”

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office recommended that anyone contacted regarding the scam should call local police.

Sheriff Lewis added that, a few months ago, an older woman entered his office in a frantic state, saying she had received a call from a person identifying himself as “Sheriff Faulkner.” The woman was told she had a warrant for her arrest for not appearing for jury duty.

“I told her that I was the sheriff in Kent County, and my last name is not Faulkner, and we have nothing to do with jury duty,” he said.

“I thought maybe she was in the wrong building and confused because we do have an employee with the last name Faulkner, but he is the chief of the Kent County paramedics. Apparently, these scammers are using names of county employees or officials that are not part of the sheriff’s office in Kent County.”

He added, “I just want people to be aware that there is a phone scam going around and to be careful not to give out any personal information and report the call to the local police or the Delaware Department of Justice Consumer Protection Unit.”