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Monday, April 15, 2024

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Elderly Polk Victims Scammed Out Of Over $65,000

PCSO detectives are investigating two incidents of a scam where elderly victims were tricked into believing their family members were arrested and needed money to bond out.

“These scammers are disgusting. They take advantage of parents and grandparents, using fear and appealing to the victims’ in compassion and love for family. They trick people into believing that the victims’ loved ones need help, and know that out of the goodness of their heart, the victim will do whatever it takes to help a family member. My advice is to never send money to someone you do not know. First talk with a trusted family member or friend. The likelihood is that you’ll discover your loved one isn’t in trouble after all.” – Grady Judd, Sheriff

On March 13, 2021, an 85-year-old woman reported to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office that she received a phone call from someone claiming to be her son and advising that he had been involved in a traffic crash and was being arrested. He further told the victim she needed to contact his lawyer, “Walter Bennet.”
According to the victim, she called the phone number she was given for “Walter Bennet.” The scammer told the victim her son had been arrested and she had to pay $18,800 to bond him out of jail. When the victim agreed, the scammer sent a courier to the victim’s home to pick up the cash.
Approximately 20 minutes later, a small black SUV with a possibly Hispanic female arrived at the victim’s residence and collected the money.

The victim got another call about an hour later and was told the traffic crash was more serious than first believed and more money was needed to bond out her son. The victim agreed to pay the scammer another $18,800, and about 30 minutes later, a man, possibly Middle-Eastern, arrived at the victim’s residence in a light-colored, 4-door Kia. He collected the money and left.

It wasn’t until several hours later that the victim confirmed her son was never involved in a traffic crash nor had he been arrested. The victim then contacted the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
While detectives were at the victim’s residence, the scammer called the victim telling her the situation with her son was complicated and she needed to send them another $10,000 which she did not pay.
This investigation is still on-going, and no suspects have been identified.

The second incident occurred on March 23, 2021, when the out-of-state daughter of an 83-year-old Winter Haven woman reported to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office that she believed her mother was the victim of a scam. The daughter is the executor of her mother’s finances, and her mother’s bank had contacted her out of concern when her mother withdrew $15,000 from the bank account and then another $15,000 the following day.

During the investigation, detectives learned that the elderly victim was contacted by a scammer claiming to be her grandson’s attorney. The scammer told the victim her grandson had been arrested and needed money in order to be released.
The victim withdrew $15,000 from her bank and a courier (white male in a black car) picked up the money from the victim’s residence. The victim got another call, the next day, instructing her to send another $15,000; this time the courier was a different white male driving a red car.
Each time, the victim was instructed to tell the couriers there were medical records in the envelopes she gave them.

This investigation is also still on-going, and no suspects have been identified.
Preventing Grandparent Scams & Fraud
Don’t be ruled by emotions, and resist the pressure to act quickly.
Contact a trusted family member who can confirm whether the caller’s story is true or not. Even if a story might seem true, verify its accuracy.

Try contacting the real child or grandchild at a number you know is accurate.
Remember, scammers ask for secrecy because they know if you call to verify, you’ll discover the scam.
Ask questions of the caller that would be difficult for them to answer, like what is your mother’s birthday or what is your pet’s name.

One tactic the scammers use is to ask, “Grandma?” at the beginning of the call; when the victim replies with, “Is this you [name of grandchild?]” the scammers answer “Yes,” proving that the scammers don’t even need real family members’ names to get away with this crime.
Be stingy and don’t give the caller any personal information.

Contact a trusted family member or friend before making any rash decisions concerning your money.

Family members: check on your elderly family members regularly.Family members and banking institutions: look for unusual bank transactions or withdrawals of elderly family members and customers. Ask questions and be vigilant for fraud.
Immediately contact your financial institution if you find any unusual or unexpected deposits, transfers, or withdrawals.

If you have detected any criminal or fraudulent activity, notify the company and/or banking institution where it happened. Also, notify the Federal Trade Commission and local law enforcement. www.ftc.gov
Request a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax).
Order online from www.annualcreditreport.com, the only authorized website for free credit reports or call 1-877-322-8228.

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