Elderly scam alert issued in Jacksonville

Woman, 84, scammed out of $25K by JSO poser

By Ashley Harding - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - An elderly scam alert has been made after an 84-year-old woman was conned by a man claiming to be Capt. Frank Mueller with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

The suspect asked the woman for her assistance on a case where they had a person in custody.

Melissa Buheda with JSO said the man knew much of the victim's personal information beforehand, giving the impression the call must be genuine.

"This victim, he knew her name, her address, where she did banking at and he actually knew her son's name," said Bujeda. "And by giving those four key indicators she thought, 'this guy must know everything about me, you know this must be legit.'"

When asked if the woman had recently withdrawn money, she told the poser she had and gave him the serial numbers of the three bills after he asked for them. The man then told her that the money was part of an organized crime of counterfeit money investigation.

While the victim was on the phone with the suspect, he placed her on hold several times, telling her that he was confirming with the district attorney.

The suspect told the victim that the tellers were involved in the crime and directed the woman to withdraw $25,000 from her account and meet him on Emerson Street. The victim claimed the man made it sound like the money was coming from somewhere other than her account.

Before meeting, the man told the victim to wear a red scarf so that the undercover detective at the bank could recognize her. He then directed her to let the teller know since they were involved in a counterfeit case, the money was for her son to purchase a car with.

When the woman left the bank, she drove around looking for the address to meet the man, but could not find it. The suspect then called her and met her in an unknown parking lot.

When the two met in the parking lot, the suspect told the victim their password, showed her his badge and she handed the money over to him. He asked her if she had touched the money and she told him she had not.

"He was very slick. He knew what to say, he knew how to talk. She firmly believed that he was a law enforcement officer," said Bujeda. 

The victim later received a call from the man, thanking her for her help and notifying her that two tellers from the bank were arrested.

After telling her son about the incident, the elderly woman called the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and found out there is no Capt. Frank Mueller employed with JSO.

Channel 4's crime expert Ken Jefferson said unfortunately, this crime isn't anything new, and sometimes the thieves select a victim well in advance.

"Scam artists will watch you, will follow you, will learn your pattern of behavior before they every approach you," said Jefferson. "That's why it's always important to be cognizant and aware of your surroundings to see if you see any kind of suspicious activity in your neighborhood."

Officials now believe there may be two suspects who have found a way to route their calls to look like they are coming from an official number.

One suspect has been described as a black male with light colored hair and a beard, and wearing a gray pullover jacket and pants.

JSO released a few tips in how to dodge scammers:

  • Do not ever give out your financial information over the phone. If a caller continues to ask for the information, hang up the phone
  • Never assume a caller is genuine just because they hold some information, such as: your name, address and account details to try to make the call appear legitimate
  • Verify the identity of any caller – call the business using a phone number you have found yourself in the phone book or internet
  • Law enforcement agencies and banks do not conduct financial crime investigations by asking a customer to withdraw cash from an account.
  • Trust your instinct. If something doesn't sound right to you, it probably isn't. Hang up the phone
  • Anyone with any information on this scam is urged to call your local law enforcement.

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