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Scammers threaten would-be victims with jail time

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SAN ANTONIO – Jail or paying nearly $500 was the option Charles Mathers was faced with when he picked up the phone Monday.

"It hits you off guard," Mathers said.

It was meant to.

The San Antonio man had been targeted by a scammer claiming to be a sergeant with the Bexar County Sheriff's Office. Saying Mathers had missed federal jury duty, the caller said Mathers would be arrested on a warrant unless he paid nearly $500 for a "bond" that he would get back.

There were warning signs. Speaking with Mathers and his wife, Olene, the caller first asked if they were familiar with PayPal, then gave them instructions on buying some type of card at CVS. Mathers couldn't pay in person either, he said.

He also claimed they had to stay on the phone while paying or else Mathers would be arrested.

"If (I) hung up, then the warrant going to go into effect," Mathers recalled.

Olene Mathers said she got suspicious and eventually told her husband to hang up after their daughter found an article online about a similar scam.

But at first, the caller was convincing.

"At that particular time, we was at the point, yes, we was going to pay that money," she said.

When KSAT 12 tried calling the number back, the voicemail referred identified the number as the Federal Warrants Division with the Bexar County Sheriff's Office. There is no such division.

James Keith, a spokesman for the Bexar County Sheriff's Office, said these kind of scam calls come in waves, and this is one they've seen before.

"This is a common scam that occurs, unbelievably, all the time throughout our county," he said.

All you'll actually get from the Sheriff's Office about a warrant is a post card, he said. The sheriff's office does not collect money, either.

"You are going to be expected to go to that specific court and take care of that fine on your own," Keith said.

While the Matherses didn't fall for the scam, they're worried others might.

"You never picture it will happen to you," Charles Mathers said.


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