Southwest Florida residents are keeping the Lee County Sheriff's Office fraud line busy as reports of various schemes and scams have been reported to law enforcement over the last several weeks.
Sheriff Mike Scott warns residents to be wary of callers pretending to be with the federal government, the Drug Enforcement Administration or a grandchild in distress.
Some ways the fraudsters have been conducting their devious business plan over the phone are:
- Government grants: The scammer advises the potential victim they are eligible for a government grant of $7,000 because they have a high credit score, have not filed for bankruptcy and pay their bills on time.
Variations of the scheme have been reported such as asking for a Walmart credit card number, requesting bank account numbers so the "grant" can be directly deposited and other personal information.
TRUTH: Government grants are out there but securing one can be a complicated process. Don't fall for scams offering easy money. Information regarding legitimate grants is available through the public library or by calling the federal grant office at (800) 518-4726.
- Extortion scam: One local resident reported her caller ID showed the incoming call was from the DEA. The scammer identified himself as a DEA agent and accused the victim of fraudulently purchasing sleep medication from Canada, which he said was illegal.
The criminal, who was described as being very rude and abusive, told the frightened victim she needed to pay a fine of $1,500 via Western Union, or a law enforcement officer would be over to arrest her.
TRUTH: The DEA will never contact you by phone to demand money or any other form of payment; however, they urge consumers to use caution when purchasing pharmaceuticals online or over the phone, as stringent requirements must be met. In addition, personal and financial information can be compromised by fraudulent out of country pharmacies.
- Grandparent scam: This never ending scam that targets older adults is circulating our area once again.
If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be your granddaughter or grandson telling you they are in trouble and need you to wire transfer money right away, ask questions that only he/she would know, or hang up the phone immediately and contact your loved one yourself.
TRUTH: No matter the story or the urgency of the request, take the time to confirm the whereabouts of your family member and never keep the demand a secret.
It is important to remember that caller ID spoofing technology allows a user (the scammer) to change the caller ID to show any desired number on a recipient's (the victim's) caller ID display.
You can no longer rely on the caller ID system when determining whether or not a call is legitimate.
If you have questions about this fraud alert, or if you have received a call and would like to report it, contact the LCSO fraud line at (239) 258-3292.