Florida Keys deputies warn of scam involving gift cards

Officials believe con-artist callers are based overseas


MARATHON, Fla. – The Monroe County Sheriff's Office is warning residents about a gift-card scam after a Marathon man was conned out of $1,500 Friday. 

Adam Linhardt, a spokesman for the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, said the scammer called the Marathon victim and falsely told him that he had missed jury duty and needed to buy a gift card to avoid arrest. The victim bought a $500 Money Park gift card, but the caller, who identified himself as "Derek Long," said the card didn't work, so the victim bought two more, Linhardt said. In all, the victim lost $1,500 to the scam, Linhardt said.

The victim said caller had a Marathon number and knew the area. However, deputies believe many of these thieves are based outside the U.S.

Deputies said a Marathon woman recently fell victim to a similar scam. The woman said she received a call from a man claiming to work for Comcast. He told her that hackers had acquired her personal information and she would need to buy a piece equipment to prevent future data breaches, Linhardt said.

The caller, who identified himself as "Josh Matthews," told her that the equipment would cost $5,000, Linhardt said. When the woman told the caller she couldn't afford it, the caller told her to call a number for Dell, the purported manufacturer of the equipment, Linhardt said. A man, pretending to be a Dell employee, told her she would receive $5,000 on delivery, Linhardt said. According to the plan, she would then cash the check and give the driver $2,000 in cash, Linhardt said.

But the next day, "Josh Matthews" called her again and told her to buy six $500 Google Play gift cards instead in order to get the equipment, which she did, Linhardt said.

Deputies said in all the cases the scammers ask the victims to read the numbers of the gift cards over the phone.

Deputies said in at least one case the scammers had somehow made it appear that they were calling from a sheriff's office substation in Tavernier.

Authorities advise people never to pay for anything over the phone using gift cards. If you receive a similar-sounding call, hang up and contact the organization the caller claims to be representing, deputies said.