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Beware of Urgent Phone Calls

Imagine this: Your grandmother or grandfather receives a call from someone who sounds like you, advising them you’re in legal trouble and need thousands of dollars right away.

The caller says you need that money to get released from jail, or pay a fine for an accident you were involved in. The caller warns: Don’t tell anyone. Get the money, now—in cash—and a courier arranges to come to your grandparents’ home to pick it up.

It’s a good bet your grandparents were just scammed. Too late, your grandparents realize they’ve made a terrible mistake.

We at the Volusia Sheriff’s Office are seeing an increase in fraudulent phone calls scamming victims out of thousands of dollars in scenarios just like that one. In March, at least three similar cases were reported to us, totaling more than $50,000 paid to criminals pretending to be a family member in need.

It’s an old scam, but it still works on those who are vulnerable and give in to pressure. Sometimes the bad guys pose as a relative, or a friend/attorney of a relative, or even a law enforcement officer or other government official.

We’re plenty familiar with scams in which an impostor caller directs the victim to buy cash gift cards and read off the numbers over the phone.

Now these thieves are so emboldened that they’re sending people to the grandparents’ homes to pick up their cash. These trusting elderly victims are losing tens of thousands of dollars, believing the scam.

Here’s my suggestion: If you get a call like this and agree to provide cash, call 911 immediately. Get a law enforcement officer to your house and let them sort through the mess for you. Don’t rush to your bank until you report it.

Remember: If someone calls and says they are from the IRS, a police department, or the Volusia Sheriff’s Office and you’d better pay up or you’ll be arrested, NOBODY —not Homeland Security, not the IRS, not Florida Power & Light—no legitimate entity wants cash from you. That’s not how government works. Don’t fall for it!

If you know someone who might be susceptible to this kind of crime, please talk with them. Remind them that anytime someone calls demanding money—especially if they’re making threats or using pressure tactics—it’s almost definitely a scam.

Call the Sheriff’s Office at 386.248.1777 if you’re a fraud victim, but rest assured: You don’t have to be a victim if you hang up on scammers!

Stay smart and stay safe,
Sheriff Mike Chitwood