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2014-04-24

New scam - bigger, better & more persistent

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Bandera City Marshal James "Charlie" Hicks recently reported that an elderly female resident in a neighboring county nearly became the latest victim of a new scam. He warns Bandera residents that the same thing could happen here and wants them to be prepared.
This new scam appears to be one of the more convincing and convoluted schemes designed to bilk the elderly out of their money.
Interestingly, the scammer initially gained the woman's trust by telling her he worked for a company that would pay off her credit cards - which were reportedly in excess of $70,000.
The scammers, who claimed to be from Winners International Sweepstakes, contacted the woman by phone, informing her she'd won a $6 million cash prize and a 2014 Mercedes Benz. However, before the woman could collect the prizes, she must wire or mail a $4,000 fee required to pay for tax, title and license.
The victim hesitated until she was told the company would pay off her credit cards. Convinced, the woman supplied the scammers with her credit card account information and the credit cards were duly paid off. A problem issue arose three days later when the scammer's checks bounced and the victim's debit was reinstated.
Law enforcement learned of the incident when a concerned postmaster called them after interdicting two suspicious money orders the woman had mailed the scammers. Even after law enforcement called the criminals and advised them to cease and desist, they refused to give up. Luckily, however, the transfer of the four thousand dollars had not been completed.
Not even a change of phone numbers deterred the criminals. A scammer determined where she lived and began calling one of her neighbors, continuing the calls until late at night.
Pretending to be a concerned grandson, the scammer asked for the woman's new telephone number, but was unsuccessful. Additionally, the crooks even called the local law enforcement office and, again pretending to be the woman's grandson, attempted to learn her new contact information.
When other efforts failed, one scammer, using "grandson" ruse, dispatched a plumber and a pizza deliveryman to the victim's house. After she told them she hadn't requested their services, both the plumber and pizza man, who had cell phones with the scammers on the line, handed the phones to her, unwittingly putting the woman back in contact with the scofflaws. Without blinking an eye, the scammers again asked her to send the money so she could collect her prizes!
Unfortunately, because telephone scammers often use computers or disposable cell phones to place their calls, locating suspects is becoming more difficult and sometimes impossible.
For informational purposes, the telephone numbers used in the recent case were 940-202-9245 and 702-347-4715. The man with the 940 area code called himself John Shine and the other caller claimed to be Floyd Logan. Shine had a Latino accent and Logan sounded Jamaican, the woman said. Another alias used by scammers in this case was David Washington. Although the area codes are based in the United States, law enforcement officials are almost certain the callers are located abroad, according to hints dropped during their conversations with the woman.
The incident was reported to the office of the Texas Attorney General, who advised law enforcement nothing could be done because the scammers operate from countries, out of the reach of US law enforcement.
"I want to make sure that businesses know that these individuals will involve them in their scams," Hicks said, adding, "If a business was sent to a location and they weren't called, they need to contact the city marshal's office or the Bandera County Sheriff's Office, depending on jurisdiction."
He continued, "I urge all of you never to give out any personal information to strangers and to be suspicious of any offers that seem too good to be true. It is always better to rely on the old saying, 'If it sounds too good to be true it probably is'."
Non-emergency number for the marshal's office is 830-796-3456 during business hours and for BCSO, it is 830-796-3771.