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Starbucks in St. Augustine targeted in phone scam

Scammer posed as FBI conducting financial audit of store’s cash

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – We’re all used to hearing of scammers calling our personal cell phones. Now, they’re going straight to major companies.

It happened Sunday afternoon at a Starbucks location on Palencia Village Drive in St. Augustine, according to a St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office incident report.

The report says the scammers, who went by the names Reese O’Neal and John Myers, called the Starbucks, claiming they were from the FBI and were investigating employee theft.

The scammers told a Starbucks employee to count the money the store had on hand and then sent her to load up Green Dot prepaid cards with that cash, according to the report.

The employee filled three cards with $1,500 before a CVS employee told her she had reached her daily limit for the prepaid cards. She then gave the card numbers to the scammers.

Afterward, the employee notified her manager about what happened.

News4Jax Crime and Safety Expert Ken Jefferson said there were several red flags in this case that should tip people off when they receive a suspicious phone call from a total stranger.

“You have to recognize what it is from the beginning,” he said. “They play on the vulnerability of the people who are gullible enough to listen to the scammers and proceed with it.”

Perhaps the biggest tipoff that this wasn’t a legitimate phone call were the instructions the men gave to the Starbucks employee, Jefferson said.

“What you have to understand and remember is the FBI is never going to do anything like that,” he said.

In response to requests for comment from News4Jax, Starbucks said it is aware of the incident, which it said remains under investigation.

Below are some tips from the FBI to help you avoid becoming a victim:

  • The FBI will never contact someone by phone to ask for money;
  • If you’re contacted by the FBI for an investigation, there’s a process to verify their identity;
  • Scammers use fear and urgency to convince law-abiding citizens into taking action.

To report any type of scam, you can contact the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.


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