LEE COUNTY, Fla.- A taxi driver called the Lee County fraud line, believing his elderly passenger was being scammed in a sweepstakes/lottery scheme. The driver became suspicious after the 82-year-old woman requested he take her to the bank and then the Post Office on several different occasions. When a Sheriff's Office Fraud Specialist met up with the senior citizen, it was confirmed she was in fact the victim of a lottery scam. The victim had already mailed several thousands dollars in cash to the Jamaican scammer, but with the help of a U.S. Postal Inspector, the Sheriff's Office was able to recover a portion of the victim's funds.
Days later, a bank manager contacted the fraud line to report that one of his customers, a 90-year-old male, was withdrawing large sums of money and wiring the withdrawals out of the country in hopes of winning the lottery and a brand new car. Once again, a Fraud Specialist met with the victim and discovered that not only was he wiring money, he was also doing some personal shopping for the scammer as well. At the request of the thief, the victim would regularly go to local stores and purchase items like phones, watches and underclothes and then mail the items to Jamaica. Sheriff's officials assisted the man in changing his phone number and his bank accounts; however it is likely the scammer will not give up so easily.
Thousands of older adults around the country are taken advantage of on a daily basis, including right here in Lee County. In an attempt to give area residents, particularly seniors, a place to report these hideous crimes, the Sheriff's Office implemented its very own "Fraud Line" in March, 2006. This phone line, manned by a Fraud Specialist, was the first local law enforcement operated line in the nation designated specifically to receive, develop and refer criminal complaints from residents who had been scammed; or an attempt was made to scam them.
In 2012, over 3,660 calls were made to the Fraud Line by concerned citizens, and that number is expected to rise in the coming year. In the first two months of 2013, the fraud line received over 500 phone calls and in the last three weeks the fraud line has averaged 99 calls per week. Complaints from residents include receiving fraudulent letters and checks in the mail, internet and romance scams, sweepstakes schemes, as well as credit card and identity theft.
If you would like to report a fraud, scam or identity theft, contact the fraud line at 239-477-1242. If you would like a Fraud Specialist to speak to your organization or community group, please contact 239-477-1400.