As we greet 2024, it’s important to remind readers about the many kinds of fraud that can befall people of all ages, and how you can prevent becoming a crime victim in this brand-new year.
Just as 2023 was winding down, our office received a complaint from a male West Volusia resident who said he had been scammed by a vehicle wrap advertisement that he received in the mail. The ad included an envelope with a very real-looking check, complete with routing and account numbers.
Our victim was directed by written instructions to deposit the check into his bank account and send confirmation of the deposit slip to a person’s e-mail and phone number. He did that. Next, he was directed to send a cashier’s check to a different person for an installation fee and installation materials.
Soon our victim noticed the check he had received and deposited had disappeared from his account. He contacted his bank, which advised him to report it to us and he knew he had been scammed.
At first the victim was reluctant to call law enforcement—until he received another envelope in the mail, a check and instructions from a different company. Fortunately, he reported his experience to us and wants to pursue criminal charges after losing nearly $3,000. His case is now an active investigation.
Thank goodness this fraud victim didn’t lose more money before contacting us.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has a feature on her website www.myflori dalegalcom/ScamsAtAGlance called Scams At A Glance in which she offers ongoing information about common and emerging scams. She provides downloadable brochures designed to teach Florida residents how to avoid falling victim to fraud schemes.
Red Flags: She also notes these general signs of common scams that should be red flags to us all:
• Unsolicited calls, e-mails, or by mail;
• High-pressure tactics or offers that are too good to be true;
• Threats of loss if you don’t take immediate action;
• Requests for immediate payment by wire transfer or credit, prepaid debit, or gift cards.
This year I have had the pleasure of visiting multiple senior groups or assisted living facilities to educate Volusia County residents about many kinds of scams that can affect them. These types of frauds include:
Grandparents’ Scam: In an elaborate scheme, someone calls you pretending to be a family member, asking for money to avoid being arrested and asks you not to tell anyone. Victims have lost thousands of dollars to this scam.
Missed Jury Duty: Imposters call you and say they represent the Volusia Sheriff’s Office or other local law enforcement agency. They tell you to pay money or threaten you with jail because you supposedly missed jury duty. Don’t fall for it! No legitimate agency contacts people and threatens them. The same goes for the IRS or Department of Homeland Security.
After The Storm: Some criminals take advantage of victims in need, especially following hurricanes or other natural disasters. Information is available on legitimate resources to help storm victims and what to watch for. To report fraud: 1.866.966.7226.
Swindling Sweethearts: Scammers prey upon people who are vulnerable and lonely to entice them into having romantic relationships when the goal is to actually to trick the victims out of their money and their hearts.
Charity: After a disaster or during the holiday season, scam artists especially seek victims who are in the spirit of giving. The Attorney General’s website offers resources to help you research how donations are used and whether charities are registered in Florida. One resource is Charity Navigator: CharityNavigator.org
Identity Theft: This can happen if a stranger calls you on the phone or reaches out to you online. Remember, never give your personal financial information such as Social Security number to someone you don’t know. Criminals also may contact you online using an impostor organization that resembles a well-known organization or logo but may be slightly different.
There’s plenty of important information available to teach you how to prevent becoming a victim of these fraud perpetrators. Most importantly, remain alert, suspicious, and check your financial information regularly to make sure you haven’t been scammed.
Remember: If someone offers you something, or threatens you, and requires you to send money, it’s a scam. don’t fall for it.
If you think you’ve become a victim of fraud, call our non-emergency number: 386. 248.1777, or 911 in an emergency. We’re always ready to help.
Let’s make 2024 a happy,
safe new year,
Sheriff Mike Chitwood