Detectives in the Lower Keys are investigating a number of scams in which some of the victims were bilked of thousands of dollars each.
A Stock Island man lost more than $3,000.00 after responding to a on line job posting on Craigslist. He said he was hired as a driver for someone who was going to visit Key West. He received first payment before the “visitor” arrived: a cashier’s check for $3,850.00. He was instructed to cash the check and keep $500.00 for himself. The rest he was told to send in a Money Gram to a “travel agent” to cover the “visitor’s” travel expenses. After sending the money, the original cashier’s check bounced and he was told by his bank it was a fraud.
A couple on Little Torch Key have their boat for sale on Craigslist. They received an email from someone who wanted to purchase the boat. The purchaser said he would pay for the vessel using his PayPal account. He told them he had a shipper in London ready to pick up the boat, but he said he needed to pay the shipper $950.00 and didn’t have a credit card to pay them with. He asked the couple to pay the shipping company for him. He asked them to send the money through Western Union and he would reimburse them. They said they received several emails ostensibly from PayPal confirming all the information. After sending the money, they began to feel uncertain about it and called PayPal. PayPal said they had no record of an account set up by the man they had been dealing with.
A Bay Point woman received a phone call from someone identifying themselves as her grandson. He told her he needed money because he was in an accident in Mexico and needed to pay for repairs. He told her to send the money to Spain, because the rental car company owning the wrecked car was based in that country. She sent $3,500.00 by Western Union. Later, she called her grandson and he told her he was in Los Angeles, California and had not called her for any money.
A Summerland Key woman began receiving phone calls from friends and acquaintances who said they had gotten a strange email from her. The email said she was in Madrid, Spain and needed $3,000.00 to help a critically ill cousin. The email said she’d left the country on short notice and did not have enough money. By all accounts, the email was well written and even contained accurate information about her business. She said all the information was, however, false and, fortunately, everyone contacted her first before sending money.
Detectives say the bottom line in cases like these: if you have the slightest suspicion that things aren’t right, don’t send money. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be extremely careful when it comes to dealing with strangers, especially when it comes to sending cash anywhere, or accepting checks from anyone you don’t know. Ask lots of questions, and when it doubt, call your bank for help, or call local law enforcement. You can’t be too careful, and the Sheriff’s Office would rather help you up front, before you lose money, than after the fact.