Every week the Volusia Sheriff’s Office receives at least three or four new fraud criminal complaints in which someone is being exploited. It’s so important to be vigilant so you don’t fall for this kind of crime.
I’ve been invited to talk with senior residents throughout Volusia County in recent weeks about the different kinds of scams people find themselves facing. Many seniors say they regularly receive fraud calls on their cell phones and most seem to know to just hang up if they don’t recognize a phone number.
Plenty of people, of all ages, are still becoming victims of scams here in Volusia County.
For example, a woman in her 70s who lives in West Volusia County reported to us that she was out $10,000 after meeting a man on a dating website. After two weeks of communicating, they met in person at a coffee shop and continued communicating by phone and text.
Having built some trust, the male suspect asked for her help to transfer money for a job because he lost his wallet containing his credit cards and cash. He asked her to deposit two checks that he would send her, then she was to secure a cashier’s check to deposit into his family member’s account where he would withdraw from it. The victim followed instructions.
Of course the checks bounced, our victim had lost $10,000 and the suspect has disappeared. That’s when the victim came to the Sheriff’s Office to file a criminal complaint. This is known as a romance scam and unfortunately is very common, and being committed by genius crooks who prey on people who are lonely, trusting, and fall for elaborate schemes like this one.
A second incident was reported to us recently, this time involving a Volusia County resident in her mid-70s who stated she received an alert on her computer in July, saying she had a potential electronic virus. The victim contacted someone pretending to be an employee of Microsoft, who told her that her account had stolen money.
Somehow, to correct the problem, the victim was told to send money and did so over the next two months via Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Apple gift cards, and bitcoin, an electronic form of money used in transactions.
She realized it was a scam and by this time had sent more than $60,000.
Both victims are pursuing criminal charges because they’ve lost thousands of dollars.
These scams can happen through e-mails on your computer or calls to your cell phone. If you don’t recognize the name or number of a caller, it’s best to either HANG UP or avoid answering in the first place if you have Caller ID.
Surely we’ve all heard of scammers who call random cell numbers and pose as representatives of local law enforcement, the IRS, the Department of Homeland Security, or others. It’s even happened to our
Sheriff’s Office—a caller pretends to be an actual VSO deputy and demands a call back, threatening arrest if you don’t send money.
Remember: We don’t operate that way! No police agency with any integrity calls you to demand money or threaten you with arrest. If there’s a problem with the IRS, they’ll send a letter.
The Florida Attorney General’s Office has helpful resources about how to recognize and avoid these kinds of scams and what to do if you are victimized. You can reach them online at www.myflori daleagal.com/ScamsAtAGlance
General signs of a scams include:
If you spot any of these red flags and don’t know what to do, talk to a friend or family member about it before acting. Or call our office non-emergency number and we’ll help you: 386.248.1777.
It’s the season to be grateful for our blessings and we have many.
Please stay smart and stay safe,
Sheriff Michael Chitwood