Strolling through a dark alley with a fistful of cash is clearly courting trouble, but many Washington area residents have recently become crime victims while sitting quietly at home.

Law enforcement officials have been warning residents this month about efforts to separate them from their money, often by use of nothing more sinister than a phone.

Last week, the police and the sheriff’s office in Arlington County warned of scams in which a caller claiming to be an official warns residents that an arrest warrant will be issued for missing jury duty, unless money is transferred at once through a prepaid cash card.

Authorities said the county never requires payment by a cash card that uses no identification, and they urged residents to hang up on such calls.

A few days earlier, Takoma Park police said the scam had also been tried there, three times on March 19 alone.

In one call, a resident was told that a warrant had been issued for a relative, but it could be dismissed with immediate payment of $997 through a cash card.

When police called the number given, they said, they were told it was no longer in use.

Takoma Park officials said recipients of such calls should contact police. Law enforcement agencies do not make such offers, they said.

The reports come as the Internal Revenue Service has warned against a nationwide scheme in which phone callers threaten arrest unless immediate payment of money allegedly owed is made with a prepaid debit card or via a wire transfer.

Area residents have been victims of the scheme. Howard County police said it has been reported there nine times since October. Police said that victims have lost amounts up to $3,000.

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