It’s a brand-new year. Time to start fresh and arm yourself with important information to avoid being victimized by criminals who want to scam you out of your hard-earned money.
Today, I want to alert you about a couple of kinds of fraud cases that your Sheriff’s Office is actively investigating here in Volusia County.
One case involves a rental scam in which a renter found a Deltona home online, communicated with the alleged landlord via texting on her phone, and paid rent upfront and online, only to discover she had been scammed out of nearly $1,400 by a fake landlord.
Even if you aren’t seeking a rental home yourself, you may want to warn your children or grandchildren to be aware of rental scams like this one.
Rental scams occur when scammers post fake rental ads on Craigslist or other online sites using fake photos or photos from legitimate listings. Then the scammers ask for either an upfront payment in cash to view the property or hold the cash as a deposit.
To avoid becoming victimized, renters should be suspicious of anyone who asks for a cash deposit to see a property, and make sure the person is the real property owner before negotiating rental terms.
The second case involves imposters who pretend to represent a utility or government worker and approach residents at their home. Sometimes these culprits even work in pairs—one distracts the resident while the partner walks around back and enters the home to steal.
Recently, a DeLand man in his late 80s reported being the victim of an armed home invasion robbery—during the daytime—when a male suspect approached the victim in his garage, pretending to represent Duke Energy.
The suspect pointed a gun at the victim and demanded money before fleeing.
The suspect lured the victim out of his home by saying he had electrical system work to do on the property. He even produced papers showing a work order, then pulled out a firearm and demanded money. The victim complied by handing over cash and the robber fled to a waiting vehicle and accomplice.
Our detectives are actively investigating this case too.
In fact, after we posted a story on our social media about this robbery, several residents sent us information about other similar incidents. In each case, someone approached a home and told residents they were a member of a utility company.
I’m not here to frighten anyone. I’m just reminding you to be aware and protect yourself from this common type of crime. Practice good crime prevention by remaining alert and suspicious if someone you don’t know approaches you at home. Always ask for identification, especially if someone is asking to access your home.
If you’re alone and feel uncomfortable, go to a neighbor’s home and ask them to come with you to your home. Or call our non-emergency number, 386.248.1777, or 911 in an emergency. Call us if you’ve experienced a similar incident. We’re here to help.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s website has additional resources for avoiding being victimized by scams. Visit: www.myfloridalegal.com
We have great resources too on our Volusia Sheriff’s Office website: Go to www.volusiasheriff.org and click on Resources, where you’ll find crime in-formation and prevention, victim assistance, and much more.
Let’s make 2023 a great year,
Sheriff Mike Chitwood