TOMS RIVER —Phone scammers are ripping off people by pretending to call from sheriff's offices in at least two counties in New Jersey.

Ocean County Sheriff Mike Mastronardy said residents are getting calls from people claiming to be from the "Ocean County Sheriff’s Department Warrants and Citations Division,” instructing them to call a phone number to leave a deposit of $1,000 in order to cancel an arrest warrant for missing jury duty.

Similar calls have been received by Monmouth County residents. The con artists use a technique called "spoofing," in which they are able to fake their number on a recipient's caller ID. The calls appear to be coming from the Monmouth County Sheriff's Office, so victims think they are legit.

Brick resident Patricia Brown, who has relatives with a law enforcement background, said she almost fell for the scam because it sounded so realistic. The caller, who identified himself as "Brian Ward," claimed that a judge issued a bench warrant for her 30-year-old daughter after she missed jury duty. The caller asked for a credit card number in order to resolve the problem.

"I can imagine that there's other people out there that would have been scared to get a phone call saying they were from the Sheriff's Department and a phone number to call back with a voice mail that said they were from the sheriff's department," Brown said.

Brown said her daughter was given real addresses and room numbers from the Ocean County courthouse and a court in Trenton. Her daughter was told to go to an address on Hooper Avenue, where the county courthouse is located, to do a handwriting analysis to prove that she didn't sign the certified letter she was sent for jury duty.

Brown's suspicions were raised when the caller said that Mastronardy had been "transferred" when she called back the number she was given.

Mastronardy advises people to never send money through a pre-paid debit card over the phone. Never give out personal information over the phone, including Social Security numbers, date of birth, debit card numbers, credit card numbers or bank account numbers.

Mastronardy said anyone in Ocean County receiving a call should contact his office at 732-929-2044.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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