New scam targeting sex offenders circulating in St. Clair County

·2 min read

A new scam targeting sex offenders has been circulating in St. Clair County.

Michigan State Police Public Information Officer Lt. Kimberly Vetter said the Lapeer Post first became aware of a scam a couple months ago in which scammers contact registered sex offenders by mail or phone and state they have violated the sex offender registry, have a warrant for their arrest, or owe fines and need to send money to rectify the issue.

For example, one scammer sent a victim a text message with what appeared to be an image of a warrant for their arrest and demanded money, Vetter said. When the victim went to the Michigan State Police Lapeer Post, troopers told the person the text was fraudulent.

"These suspects will say whatever it takes to convince the person to send them money, so they make it up as they go along, typically," Vetter said.

She said scammers often demand personal information and money via gift cards, Bitcoin, wire transfer or some other money transfer method that is not easily trackable by law enforcement.

The sex offender registry has recently undergone several changes and the public sex offender registry lists information such as addresses, photos and physical descriptions, making sex offenders an easy target, Vetter said. Sex offenders are also particularly vulnerable because violating the sex offender registry is a felony offense that could carry a serious punishment.

"It is an effective way to scare people into complying with this behavior," Vetter said. "People are desperate to not be charged with these additional crimes, so they pay."

Law enforcement will never ask residents to send money via gift cards, Bitcoin, wire transfer or other suspicious means of money transfer, Vetter said, nor would law enforcement ever ask for payment over the phone. Payments to law enforcement or the court system can always be made in-person at a law enforcement or court office or via mail, and notifications of changes to the registration are made via mail.

If you suspect you are being scammed, call or visit a local law enforcement agency or your local Michigan State Police post to verify the information before sending any funds. Residents can also request a uniformed law enforcement officer respond to their home if they suspect they are the victim of a scam.

Contact Laura Fitzgerald at (810) 941-7072 or lfitzgeral@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Port Huron Times Herald: New scam targeting sex offenders circulating in St. Clair County