PALM BAY, Florida — Palm Bay Police detectives with the General Crimes Unit are warning the public to secure their identities and be aware of an escalating number of scams that seek to rob victims of significant amounts of money.
In the last month, these detectives have seen an increase in the number of reports filed in which victims either have been scammed by face to face contacts such as the “pigeon drop” scheme or by email, phone call or mail correspondence. These scams tout huge financial gains through various means, but always will ask the victim to present “good faith” money in order to access the larger cash supply.
In one recent case, a woman nearly lost $4,000 when she was approached by an elderly man in the parking lot of a local business. The man told her he just found $68,000 and was willing to give her a portion of the money but needed her to withdraw $4,000 from her bank in order to help him gain access to the cash.
The woman complied and after she gave the suspect the money, he then attempted to flee. The suspect, later identified as 70-year-old Eugene Brown, was later arrested and charged with grand theft and exploitation of the elderly. “Fortunately for this woman we were able to catch the suspect before he took off with all her cash,” said Detective Mark Fell. “This is just one of many scams that have been around for years, but still manages to find victims.”
Among the most notable cases involves fraudulent tax returns. In these cases, an individual seeking to file a 2011 tax return, usually using an online tax program, is notified that the tax return is not accepted by the IRS due to it already having been filed. The victim is then directed to contact local law enforcement to initiate an identity theft investigation. “We’ve been taking these reports for about a month now and at last count we are up to as many as 60 just in our agency alone,” said Detective Mark Fell. “We don’t know how they are doing it, but we are seeing it mostly with the online filings and it’s happening all over the country not just here.” Detectives advise victims to first request a report from the IRS on their tax return history before filing the identity theft report.
Detectives say the best prevention is awareness and securing your identity through various means. Check bank and credit card statements regularly. Invest in a shredder to discard personal information. Never give personal information over the phone and always protect your social security number, name and address.