Bogus bond phone scam targets Omaha-metro sex offenders

A Sarpy County sheriff’s deputy says the agency isn’t the one making the calls.
A Sarpy County sheriff's deputy is warning of a phone scam targeting registered sex offenders.
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 8:47 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Here’s a number that might shock you.

Nebraska has 6,655 registered sex offenders. In the last couple of weeks, some of them have received phone calls that threaten them with being sent back to prison. But it’s not law enforcement making the threats.

“I paid my debt to society,” said one of the victims, who asked not to be shown on TV.

But his name and photo are on the sex offender registry for all to see -- including a scammer who called him pretending to be law enforcement.

“(It said) you missed a date today for a federally-issued swab. So you either have to be arrested and go to prison or you have to pay a preliminary bond,” he said.

Sarpy County Sheriff’s Deputy Adam Arko monitors 336 offenders. One of them, a woman, reported a call from a phony cop claiming she missed a DNA swab.

“The last person who fell for it was $2,500, and they claimed it was for a bond, and she went to a Bitcoin machine in Omaha to send the money,” Arko said.

Paying a bogus bond through Bitcoin or cash cards is what sex offenders are being told to do to stay out of prison.

“I was scared,” an offender said. “I was scared I was going to have someone come to my house, arrest me and take me back to prison for something I didn’t even know was going to go on.”

The Nebraska State Patrol manages the registry and tells 6 On Your Side six offenders complained that arrest warrant scammers targeted them.

Even though the registry doesn’t list a phone number, there’s plenty of information on there for scam artists to find one -- from date of birth to their exact address -- even the car they drive.

Sex offenders give a DNA sample when first registering, so a threatening call claiming they missed a follow-up swab should be checked out.

“I’ve received dozens of calls from people on the registry in Sarpy County asking me if this was real, and I generally tell them, ‘Hey, if you get a call, call me first,’” Arko said.

Before paying a bond, the offender 6 News spoke with called the number back -- it had been disconnected. So this offender didn’t lose money, but he says he easily could have, out of fear of losing his freedom again and going back to prison.

“Other inmates view any form of sex offender as the lowest of the low of crimes, the worst of the worst,” he said. “I would be targeted no matter what.”

Registered sex offenders in Sarpy County may soon be getting a letter from a real deputy, warning them of the scam and that law enforcement will never take money to cancel a warrant.