New scam targets business owners using bail requests

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Police are warning business owners not to fall for a new scam involving fake arrests.

Police say the scammers call business owners and managers posing as a jail officer and tell them their workers are in trouble.

Take the extra five minutes it would take to verify that it is indeed legitimate.

–Johnny Heppler

In two St. George cases, scammers targeted restaurants: a Pizza Factory, and Taco Time. At a Taco Time, an employee fell for the scam.

"[They said] one of the employees had been arrested for DUI and they were looking for the employee to post bail," said St. George police officer Johnny Heppler.

The employee who answered the phone wired $800 to pay the bail. By the time he found out his "arrested" co-worker wasn't arrested at all, the money was long gone.

At the Pizza Factory, the employee who answered the phone thought the call sounded suspicious, so he took the time to contact his co-worker and see if he really was in jail. That action is exactly what police recommend.

"If it takes an extra five to 10 minutes and turns out to be legitimate, you aren't out anything," Heppler says. "The person just sat in jail five to 10 minutes longer than they would have, but they are in in a safe place."

On top of that, Heppler says if an employee really was arrested, the jail wouldn't contact the employer.

"They jail is not going to contact you, or certainly not your employer, to be seeking bail money," he says.

Another way to verify if it's a scam is to get the name and phone number of the agency calling you. If it's legitimate agency, the caller won't mind giving you that information.

In the case involving the Taco time, police say the money was collected by an unidentified man in Texas who posed in telephone calls as a Washington County sheriff's deputy.


Story compiled with contributions from Sheryl Worsley and Amanda Butterfield.

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