These days, criminals keep finding new ways to scam victims out of their money. Unfortunately, their schemes prey on fear and lure people into becoming victims of crime, often costing them thousands of dollars.
Recently, a Deltona resident called the Sheriff’s Office and reported she had been tricked out of $1,800 after someone texted her pretending to represent Bank of America. The texter stated fraudulent charges were found on her account and he urged her to call the bank to straighten it out.
When she called the number provided, she was transferred to the fraud department, where she was advised she was a victim of identity theft from four different states. To safeguard her money, she was urged to take all the money from her account and place it on a Walmart prepaid card.
She drove to a Neighborhood Walmart and attempted to place nearly $1,800 on a prepaid card but the transaction failed, even after several tries.
So she drove to her bank, withdrew $1,800 and notified her fraud department contact. He advised her to purchase Target gift cards—two for $500 and two for $400, and advise him of the card numbers. She complied and he told her someone would come to her home to pick up the gift cards the next day. That’s when the victim be-came suspicious.
She contacted Bank of America and discovered there was no record of her original call. Then she checked and learned the Target cards she’d purchased had a zero balance. She knew she’d been scammed and called us to report this incident.
Criminals are banking that people will react first and think logically later in potentially stressful situations like these. That’s why I want to remind you how to prevent falling for such scams.
First, financial institutions won’t use texts to communicate with you about a problem. That information would come in writing. The same goes for scam calls from people pretending to be from the IRS or law enforcement, calling to threaten victims with arrest. Big red flag here. That’s not how any authentic government agency operates. Please, don’t fall for it.
Second, when anyone calls, e-mails, or texts you about a legal problem or a warrant for your arrest, and tells you to pay the debt using gift cards, hang up or delete immediately. Gift cards are also a danger sign and unfortunately, Volusia County re-sidents continue to fall for this kind of scam.
Here are some other important tips to avoid becoming a fraud victim:
• Only answer calls from people whose number you recognize. If it’s important, they can leave a message.
• Never, ever provide your personal or financial information such as your Social Security number or banking information, especially to a stranger over the phone.
• Listen to your gut: If someone calls, texts, or e-mails you with an offer that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If they tell you to pay them, hang up. Hang up. Hang up!
• If a stranger asks to enter your house, for any reason, say no. This could be a ruse to get into your home to steal your purse or wallet. Criminals may even travel in pairs; one person distracts you at the front door while a partner enters the back door without your permission.
The Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s website (myfloridalegal.com) is a great source of information to help you learn more about all kinds of online scams and how to protect yourself.
It contains helpful features called Scams at a Glance and Consumer Alert. Scams at a Glance is a fraud prevention tool to bolster consumers’ knowledge about common scam tactics. To view Consumer Alerts, visit My FloridaLegal.com/ConsumerAlert To report fraud or file a complaint, visit My FloridaLe gal.com or cal 866.9NO.SCAM (966.7226).
If you believe you are a victim of a crime, call us! Call the Volusia Sheriff’s Office nonemergency line: 386.248.1777 or 911 in an emergency. We’re here to help.
Stay safe and stay smart,
Sheriff Mike Chitwood