JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Today the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office released its list of the top economic crimes or scams they report continue to impact residents in Jacksonville.
"A lot of people are becoming more aware and we're starting to receive a lot of phone calls of people receiving these types of scams via email, phone call-not sure what to do," explained JSO Public Information Officer Melissa Bujeda. "Is it real? Of course everybody wants that to be real. They want to win that $5,000. They want to win that car, but a little red flag goes off, is this too good to be true?"
Bujeda said more often than not, it is a scam.
"We don't want people to be victimized. We don't want people to be scammed," said Bujeda.
That is why JSO's Economic Crimes Division has put together their list of the top scenarios criminals have been using to steal from people in our area.
1. Pigeon Drop
According to JSO, people using this scam usually target shoppers in parking lots. One person will approach the would-be victim saying that he or she has found a bag of money or bonds and asking what he or she should do with the cash. A second person, who is working in conjunction with the scammer will join in, said Bujeda, and decide they should keep the money.
The pair will tell the victim that they will go to the bank and verify the money, but that they first need a deposit from the victim to insure he or she will not tell the police. Investigators said the duo will then disappear with the victim's money.
2. Jamaican Sweepstakes
Bujeda said the "Jamaican Sweepstakes Scam" was popular a few years ago, but has made a recent resurgence.
In this scenario, a potential victim receives an email or a phone call saying he or she has won a large prize, such as cash or a car from a sweepstakes. The scammer goes on to say that the prize winner must pay the taxes or stamps before the prize can be shipped, said Bujeda. However, after the victim wires money to claim his or her prize, the prize never arrives.
3. Secret Shopper
Investigators with the Economic Crimes Division said "secret shopper" scams have been targeting people in Jacksonville recently.
According to Melissa Bujeda, a resident gets an email or phone call stating that he or she has been selected as a "secret shopper." If the selected "shopper" accepts the position, the "company" sends him or her a check to deposit into the shopper's personal bank account, which they are then instructed to use for the item they are supposed to purchase as a "secret shopper." Bujeda said the shopper is then told to send any remaining money back to the "company."
The next day, Bujeda explained, the bank will alert the victim that the check he or she deposited was not valid.
"We get calls all the time at the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office with people getting these emails, getting these phone calls and doing the right thing-verify," shared Bujeda. "But how many people are out there getting scammed? We do get some reports, but we feel there's a lot more who are being taken advantage of and a lot of times they're just embarrassed. So, they're out $100, sometimes $1000."
Bujeda said some "scammers" are preying on people's wish to earn money from home. She explained that the Sheriff's Office has gotten numerous reports of what they have dubbed a "reshipping scam."
In this set up, a victim thinks they are working for a legitimate company, investigators said. The "company" sends packages to the victim's home and his or her "job" is to then reship those items to another address. The victim pays all the shipping charges up front, with the expectation that the company will send him his first paycheck after two months of work.
Bujeda said the paycheck never arrives and the victim is out all of the shipping charges.
According to JSO, some criminals are targeting people who are legitimately trying to sell their personal property online or in the classifieds.
Bujeda said a "scammer" will contact the seller by phone or email and offer to buy the television, bicycle or whatever other item is for sale. The "buyer" will send a check to the seller for more than the agreed upon amount. When the seller contacts the potential buyer, he or she asks the seller to deposit the check anyway and send him or her a refund for the extra money.
Once the seller sends the item and the money, he or she learns the check from the "buyer" was not good.
"You can call the bank, maybe to verify that check is good and it is a verifiable account," Bujeda suggested. "If the bank is unable to do that for you, I would send the check back and just say, 'I'm sorry. I can't do business with you unless you send me a money order or specific cash."
Bujeda said some "scammers" are targeting the elderly in what JSO has called the "grandparent scam." Bujeda explained that a crook will call seemingly in a panic asking for "their" grandmother or grandfather. When the grandparent answers, he or she often asks, "Johnny, is that you?"
The person on the other end of the line will agree that is who he or she is, said Bujeda. Then, the criminal will ask for the grandparent to wire him or her money because the caller claims to be in jail, in the hospital or stuck in another country.
"It's a stress factor," Bujeda shared. "They think they're in trouble. They think they're hurt. They think they need help and the grandparent is trying to do what they think is right helping them out and hundreds of dollars are being wired to an unknown individual somewhere."
Bujeda said new technology has been targeting anyone with a debit or credit card. She said small, hand-held "skimmers" have been reported at some local restaurants.
According to Bujeda, when running your card for your meael, a waiter or waitress will take the card you use to pay for your meal and also run it through the skimmer, which copies all the information off the magnetic strip. The skimmers can hold information from dozens of cards, which Bujeda said the crooks can then use themselves or sell to someone overseas.
Bujeda said these skimmers can also be installed on ATMs or gas pumps.
"Pull on that little plastic piece where you card goes in. We've had them where they just pop off," Bujeda explained. "They're just put on their by scotch tape, but people are quick doing it-in and out-you pump your gas, you're on your way and you've just been scammed."
Investigators suggest using a credit card instead of a debit card because it is not directly linked to your bank account and it can often be easier to protest fraudulent charges.
First Coast News