HARRIS COUNTY -

Authorities are warning against impersonators who claim you are going to jail if you don't pay them money.

Officials said they call from what appears to be a local number, and then when they get you to pick up, they threaten you.

"There was a call from a number that I didn't recognize," said Ravi Iyer.

He said he let the call go to voicemail.

"I am calling you from the Harris County Sheriff's Office,” the caller left on the voicemail.

"They said I would go to jail and I had to pay a huge fine, so it was very scary," said Iyer.

He said the caller had a thick accent.

"The English was not fluent and there was an accent, so I didn't want to judge based on that because anybody could be employed by the sheriff's office," Iyer said.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office says some people have been taken advantage of by these criminals.

Deputy Thomas Gilliland said the bad guys tell a person they must pay a fine, sometimes in the form of gift cards. If the person doesn't pay, they threaten deputies will arrest them.

"Sometimes they claim to be the sheriff,” said Deputy Gilliland. “Now if the sheriff calls your house and demands money, citizens think they better do something, but I would like you to know we will never do this to you."

Iyer knows most will not fall for it, but he wants to warn others.

"I don't want others to fall prey to this -- the innocent and elderly," said Iyer.

Sometimes the criminals vary the scheme a little. They might, for example, say that you forgot to show up for jury duty so you need to pay a fine.

Officials said generally the people impersonating deputies are calling from overseas. They use computer programs to make the caller ID show a local number, even when the call is coming from thousands of miles away.

Tracking down these impersonators is nearly impossible for law enforcement because they don't have the manpower -- or sometimes legal right -- to investigate and arrest someone overseas.

Authorities said it is important to always remember the sheriff's office will never call you and demand money.