BRADENTON, Fla. - It could be passed off as the real Manatee County Sheriff’s Office webpage, but it's not. And now that site is causing concern.
"It's very elaborate, it looks legit they've done a really good job," said Sheriff Rick Wells.
The website is fake. A con job, designed to scam the public. Wells said it's an outrage.
"You're really stooping low when you take a law-enforcement website, create one on your own and make one look legit," Wells said.
Photos of Sheriff Wells along with names and office numbers of deputies who retired years ago are listed. The real reason for the site, to steal money.
"We are going to do everything in our power to locate you and put you in jail and anytime that you prey upon the citizens of Manatee County, it’s my responsibility to make sure you are held accountable and that you face charges," said Wells.
The scam starts with a phone call. The caller threatens legal action for missing jury duty or other violations. Potential victims are then referred to the website.
"It's a little bit of a different twist. We haven’t seen one where they scammed our website or spoofed it to make it look like it," said Lt. Robert Andrews.
A Manatee County resident got the call, went to the website and realized something was strange. Then they called the sheriff's office.
"We don’t collect money over the phone. We do not collect money in this manner, using a MoneyPak card at all. We don’t have online links where we collect money," Andrews explained.
Andrews said the sheriff's office will never ask for money in those ways. The real website is Manateesheriff.com.
"If you get a phone call from a number you don’t recognize, do not answer it, let it go to voicemail. That’s the biggest defense because this all starts with a simple phone call," said Lt. Andrews.
Anyone who receives a call or message directing them to the website, should not provide payment or personal information and should contact the Manatee County Sheriff's Office. Deputies are available 24/7 at (941)-747-3011 to verify the legitimacy of a call or message.