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Sheriff's office warns residents of mail, phone scammers

Deputies say to look out for too good to be true offers

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MONROE COUNTY, Fla. – The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office is warning the public to be on the alert for phone and mail based scams after they got reports from two residents Tuesday who said they were targeted by fraudsters. 

The first scam victim was a 60-year-old Islamorada woman who got a loan from a company called "Easy Loan," a deputy report said.

The victim told deputies that the company agreed to give her a $3,000 loan in exchange for Apple iTunes cards, a media release said. A representative from the company asked the woman to send him the iTunes card numbers, which she did.

Then the representative told the victim that she’d had to send him more iTunes cards in order to get the rest of the loan, deputies said.

At first the victim complied with the demands, according to deputies.

The victim told authorities that when she began to question the legitimacy of the deal, the representative began to threaten her and said he’d put her bank account in a negative balance, call her employer and have her arrested if she stopped sending the iTunes card numbers.

When the threats started, the victim knew it was a scam and called deputies.

Also on Tuesday, an elderly man in Marathon called the Sheriff’s Office to report receiving information he believed he a mail scam.

The man received a Mystery Shopper letter, giving him the mission to "evaluate MoneyGram Services" at a local outlet, along with a check for almost $2,000, deputies said. The letter instructed the man to deposit the check into his bank account, then to email a copy of the deposit slip afterward.

The letter went on to instruct him to go to a local MoneyGram store and make two cash transfers to two separate addresses.

"The letter very specifically tells him not to tell anyone what he is doing," deputies said in a media release. "If this man had complied with the all the instructions in the letter he received, the scammers would have had all of his personal bank account information, and they would have had access to all of his funds."

Instead of falling for the scam, the man brought the information to deputies before being victimized.

Deputies are reminding residents that they should call a relative, friend or the Sheriff’s Office if they receive information in the mail, via email or even a phone call that they find questionable.

"Scammers will often use personal information about you to convince you they are legitimate. They might have your address, phone number, names and addresses of relatives," deputies said. "They will try to rush you into action. They don't want you to have time to consult anyone."

Deputies said it’s typical for scammers to use high pressure tactics and, if it’s a phone scam, will try to  keep the caller on the phone until the scam is complete. In some cases, like the Mystery Shopper scam, they will give all kinds of reasons why the victim shouldn’t tell anyone of the scam.

It's also common practice for scammers to incorporate cash cards or gift cards into their plots as they are a quick way to get cash, and the money is hard to trace.

"Many scammers will tell you they are sending you a check for a large amount and want you to send money in the form of gift cards or a money gram back to them after you deposit the check," deputies said. "They know a check takes a few days to clear at a bank, and by the time, you find out their check is fake, they will be gone with your money."

Bottom line, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 

"If someone is approving a loan you know you probably don’t qualify for, ask yourself, 'Why they are doing it?'" deputies said. "If they are rushing you to do something, ask yourself, 'Why are they in a hurry?' and take the time to stop and think."