Published on December 12th, 2019 | by Randy Weeks0
The View from the Balcony: Flim Flam Don’t Get Scammed
On Monday, November 18 at 6:20 a.m., my phone rang. There was nothing all that unusual about an early morning call. For nine years I managed an inpatient psychiatric crisis facility and was on-call 24-7/365. But in August I had moved to an outpatient clinic and was no longer on-call. Still, my Post-Traumatic On-call Disorder kicked in and my first thought was, “Oh, s**t! What’s wrong now?”
Caller I.D. said the call was from Aberdeen, MS. Having received my share of robo-calls, my suspicions peaked. I expected to hear a recorded message about my car’s warranty expiring or some terrible credit card disaster I was facing. But, no! This was an actual man claiming to be a sheriff’s deputy and he sounded authentic−whatever that means.
“Is this Randall Weeks?” he asked.
“Yes, sir,” I replied. My Daddy, having almost been arrested for questioning a Mississippi Trooper’s radar when they first came out, taught me to always, always, ALWAYS, be polite to law enforcement. ALWAYS.
“Mr. Weeks,” he continued, “You have a warrant out for your arrest for failure to appear at your court date.”
Red flag number one: I knew nothing of any court date.
“What court date?” I asked.
“You didn’t get my voicemail?” he asked.
Red flag number two: I check my phone obsessively. It’s part of the PTOD. There was no voicemail.
“No, sir,” I said. “When was I supposed to be in court?”
“November the 10th,” he said. “You had a ticket for failing to use your seat belt and now you have a second ticket for failure to appear in court, and now there’s a warrant out for your arrest.”
Red flag number three: The last ticket I got was for parking in the lot behind Old Venice right after the kiosk for paid parking was clandestinely installed. I’d paid the damned no-armed thief online.
“Sir,” I said, “I haven’t gotten a traffic ticket for over a decade. Where was this supposed to have happened?”
“Crittenden County Arkansas”, he said. “West Memphis, October the 2nd.”
Red flag number four: I hadn’t been to West Memphis in ages.
“I was at a doctor’s appointment that day in Oxford, MS,” I said.
“Do you have proof of that?” he asked. “Have you ever had your license plate stolen?”
“Yes, sir,” I said. “I have proof, and, no, sir, I’ve never had my tag stolen.”
“Ok,” he said. “What you need to do is write down ticket numbers I’m gonna give you. You owe $150.00 for the seat belt infraction and $350.00 for failure to appear. Take the money and the ticket numbers to any sheriff’s office in Arkansas, Mississippi, or Tennessee. They’re gonna arrest you, but once they have the tickets and the money you can file to get that back.”
Red flag number five: How stupid did he think I was? Still, I needed a little more proof before I called his bluff.
“Any sheriff’s department?” I asked. “I live in Lafayette County. I don’t have to pay it here or up there?”
“No, sir,” he said. “Any sheriff’s department will do. But you need to stay on the line with me until you get there.”
“I can’t hang up and call you back?” I asked.
“No, sir,” he said. “You have to stay on the line.”
Red flag number five: BINGO!
“This doesn’t sound authentic,” I said.
He hung up.
Checkered flag: I crossed the finish line first and left him eating my dust.
I thought it prudent to report this to the Oxford Police Department. An officer told me that this happens all the time and I didn’t need to file a report. (If he’d said I should meet him at the red telephone booth on the Square so he could handle this personally I’d have been worried. People have been shot in similar scams, you know.)
A few nights ago an OPD squad car was behind me for a few miles. For a moment or two it flashed in my mind that the scam might not be a scam after all. But the officer soon “ceased pursuit”. Maybe there were bigger fish to fry.
So let’s all be careful out there. Beware the Flim-Flam Man! ‘Tis the season, you know.
…and that’s the view from The Balcony.