The Waldo County Sheriff’s Office is warning locals to be wary when answering phone calls purporting to be from its office following a spate of spam calls.

The sheriff’s office has received six reports from Waldo County residents who received calls demanding payment for “unpaid citations,” said Lieutenant Matt Curtis. He suspects more calls have gone out.

Scam calls are increasingly becoming an everyday part of life. Americans received around 50.5 billion spam calls in 2021 alone, according to YouMail, a spam blocking AI app. And

True Caller’s annual Insights US Spam & Scam Report estimates Americans lost over $39.5 billion dollars to these kinds of calls. It’s become such a problem that the Federal Communications Commission set spam calls as a top priority to combat in August.

Over the last six years, there’s been three or four times when officers from Waldo County Sheriff’s Office have been impersonated in spam calls, Curtis said. In the most recent round, the callers were impersonating a specific sergeant at the agency to get financial information for unpaid fines, which they were calling “citations.” These attempts have so far been unsuccessful, he said.

Curtis said that impersonating law enforcement agencies like the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office is an easy way to collect money because of the power dynamic between the public and law enforcement agencies.

“It’s to instill some fear or urgency in the people that they are calling to add some urgency and try to compel them to pay,” Curtis said.

Curtis emphasized the sheriff’s office and other law enforcement agencies in Maine would never try to collect fines over the phone.

“The sheriff’s office, law enforcement agencies do not collect fines, that’s up to the court or the state. And we would seek someone out in person, if we needed to talk about something,” Curtis said.

He encourages people who receive these calls to report them to the sheriff’s office – and simply ignore them.

If caught, the culprits behind the calls could face misdemeanor charges for impersonating a public servant. They could also face charges of theft by deception if more than $10,000 is stolen.

But there’s not much the sheriff’s office can do at this time, Curtis said. He doesn’t believe that the calls are local, but the sheriff’s office doesn’t know where they are coming from.   

“It would be like dealing with mosquitos in the spring. It’s an annoyance, unfortunately, in the world we live in today,” Curtis said.