November 5, 2013

Beware of convincing scammers

A Key Largo man is out $1,500, after wiring the money to someone who convinced him he was a family member in trouble.

The 95 year old victim told Sgt. Susan Keene he received a phone call on November 1st from someone identifying himself as his grandson. The imposter told him he was in Mexico, had drunk too much and had been arrested. The caller told him he needed $1,500 to bond out of jail and asked the victim to send the money via Western Union. The caller told the victim not to tell anyone else about it because he was embarrassed about being arrested and didn’t want anyone else to know.

The victim said his grandson does travel to Mexico on business and so he believed the call to be legitimate, so he wired the money. It was not until afterward that he began to suspect a scam. He called his grandson who was safe at home, and not in Mexico.

The Sheriff’s Office would like to remind people there are many versions of this particular scam in which family members or friends are ostensibly “in trouble” and need money. The scammers almost always ask for money to be wired to them – making it virtually impossible to trace once it has been sent. They also try to discourage their victims from calling anyone else before wiring the money. They sometimes insist on staying on the phone with the victim until the money is sent.

 In some versions of this scam, victims are asked to purchase a “Green Dot” prepaid debit card. They are then asked to give the caller the number off the back, giving them access to the money on the card. Sometimes the callers will say they have a friend or family member under their control and are holding them until money is transferred to them.

“If a family member or friend is really in trouble and they need money, they won’t mind if you take the time to verify who they are and what is happening,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “If it is someone is calling and threatening a family member or friend, then hang up and call us right away. I guess the message here is to be extremely skeptical when you get any kind of call asking you to send money. Verify everything first,” he said.

The victim in Key Largo told Sgt. Susan Keene he feels “stupid” about falling for it, but reported it to the Sheriff’s Office in the hopes it will keep someone else from becoming a victim.

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