Windsor

Sarnia courthouse overwhelmed by calls concerning 'bogus' arrest warrant

According to Const. Giovanni Sottosanti, media officer with the Sarnia Police Service, individuals who answer the scam calls are informed that a warrant exists for their arrest, because they have failed to report a compromised Social Insurance Number. 

Scammers are leaving the Sarnia-Lambton courthouse's general phone number

Const. Giovanni Sottosanti, media officer with the Sarnia Police Service, says law enforcement won't ask suspected criminals to pay fines over-the-phone. (CBC)

Sarnia police are warning residents about scam calls instructing listeners to call back a phone number that leads to the Ontario Court of Justice's Sarnia-Lambton branch. 

According to Const. Giovanni Sottosanti, media officer with the Sarnia Police Service, individuals who answer the scam calls are informed that a warrant exists for their arrest, because they have failed to report a compromised Social Insurance Number. 

If call recipients speak with an operator, they're told to pay a fine with either Bitcoin — a cryptocurrency — or gift cards.

If recipients don't answer, or refuse to speak with an operator, they're told to call back a phone number that belongs to the Sarnia-Lambton courthouse's general line.

As a result of the scam, Sottosanti said the courthouse has been inundated with calls, adding that employees are "pretty frustrated."

Sottosanti said the scam appears to have begun on Monday and has largely targeted residents living in Ottawa and Montreal. He added that some Sarnia-Lambton residents have also been affected.

"The unfortunate thing is it's a real courthouse number, so [scammers are] trying to add some truth their call, even though it is a big scam," he said.

Sottosanti said he contacted the Ottawa Police Service on Monday "to ask them if they could put out a news release … informing the public that our number is being used."

Sarnia police suspect the calls originate "from other foreign sources where they normally come from," according to Sottosanti.

He added that residents should be aware that law enforcement won't ask suspected criminals to pay fines over-the-phone. Law enforcement also won't ask to be paid in cryptocurrency or gift cards. 

"As soon as you receive these phone calls from people basically saying that you've committed a crime, there is a warrant for your arrest, just realize it's bogus," said Sottosanti.

"The only thing you can do is hang up. We don't need people to call in, not unless they actually give out information, or they actually lose money."

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.