New Castle County Sheriff Samuel D. Pratcher Jr. recently issued an alert cautioning residents to be on the lookout for unsolicited callers impersonating Sheriff’s Office staff.

“Recently, my office has been receiving a number of calls from citizens inquiring about phone calls they have received from persons representing themselves as law enforcement from the Sheriff’s office,” Pratcher said. “Often time, these individuals are representing themselves as sergeants or lieutenants from the Sheriff’s Office. They are then demanding money — often in the form of gift cards — to avoid arrest.

“Please note, the New Castle County Sheriff’s office is not a law enforcement agency; we do not have military ranks such as sergeants or lieutenants, only deputies. More importantly our deputies do not make arrest and will never ask you to meet outside of our office for any kind of payment, or require you to make payments using gift cards.

“These are scams. Usually someone will contact you and assert that you owe a fine or fee to some official governmental agency like the IRS or the courts. If they say the IRS, they may tell you that you owe back taxes. If it’s the courts, they may say you owe a fine for failing to serve on jury duty. They will then demand some type of payment to avoid arrest. This is a scare tactic.”

Residents should be aware of the following:

— The IRS never initiates contact with via phone call, email or social media.

— The IRS cannot threaten arrest or deportation for not paying.

— The IRS will never ask for payment using a gift card or prepaid debit card.

— The Sheriff’s Office does not call the citizens of New Castle County demanding payments of fines for missing a court appearance.

— The Sheriff’s Office does not make threats of immediate arrest if residents do not comply with the instructions of the caller.

If someone says they are representing the Sheriff’s Office, the resident should contact the New Castle County Sheriff’s Office at 395-8450 to verify the origin of the call. If the caller indicates they are representing some other agency, contact that agency directly. For the New Castle County Police Department, call 573-2800; city of Wilmington 654-5151; or the Delaware State Police at 739-5960.

Residents should hang up on nuisance callers and be aware of emails and social media messages offering free products, advising of sweepstakes winnings and free vacations.