Police, sheriff warn about ongoing gift card scam

Published 12:57 pm Thursday, November 5, 2020

By Shavonne Potts


SALISBURY — Local investigators say anyone asked to pay in gift cards for not showing up for jury duty should be aware it’s a scam.

A 63-year-old Salisbury woman was victimized Wednesday after she bought $1,800 in gift cards because she believed she had to pay a “fine” for failing to report to jury duty, according to the Salisbury Police Department. The woman received a call from a family member who’d taken a message from someone who purported to be with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office. The victim called the number with a 704 prefix and spoke with a man who said his name was Johnny Knox.

Knox told the victim she needed to pay via gift cards in order to clear up the failure. She purchased six gift cards totaling $1,800 and called the person. The victim read off the numbers for each gift card.

She later determined it was a scam and contacted the Salisbury Police Department.

“Law enforcement would never call you and tell you to do that,” said Police Lt. Lee Walker.

If someone doesn’t report for jury duty, Walker said, there is no associated fine, but the court system would serve a summons to appear in court to address the failure to report.

A Rowan County Sheriff’s Office deputy received a call from the same number, 704-220-6816, to address a legal matter. He told the deputy in a voicemail message, he was Sgt. Cunningham with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office. Maj. John Sifford said the deputy immediately knew it was a scam and that there is no Sgt. Cunningham with the law enforcement agency.

The deputy called the number later and asked to speak with a supervisor, but the man told the deputy the supervisor would return the next morning. The caller told the deputy his name was Eddie Murphy. The deputy told the caller who he was, and the caller said it didn’t matter because he changed his phone number two times a day.

Sifford said the Sheriff’s Office would never call anyone to ask for money, especially via gift cards as payment. He encouraged anyone to contact law enforcement before they attempt to pay money.

Anyone who believes they have been the victim of a similar scam is asked to contact the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office at 704-216-8700 or the Salisbury Police Department at 704-638-5333.