Deputy Lt. John Davis of the Bee County Sheriff’s Office said last week that he had received two calls from intended victims that day alone.
He and Police Chief Joe Treviño said they are receiving numerous complaints regarding scams in which someone with a Spanish accent is calling and could cost the victims hundreds of dollars.
Also, the intended victims usually have Spanish names.
In each of the incidents, the caller has claimed that he know a family member who has been involved in an accident and has no insurance.
The caller seems to always know the names of several family members or family friends when he calls.
Davis said one intended victim he spoke to said the caller told him a younger relative had hit a little girl with a car he was driving, and the girl had to be rushed to a hospital in Corpus Christi.
The caller said he would need $800 in cash to pay in advance for the hospital care.
Davis said one caller asked the intended victim to go to the local Walmart where he would meet the victim and take the money.
But before the intended victim could get to the store, he was contacted again and asked to simply go into the store and purchase a money order that could wired to a recipient.
The victim already had realized the call was a potential scam and had contacted police.
Treviño said that, at first, he had suggested that the intended victim make the delivery and officers would converge on the recipient and make an arrest.
The one element of the scheme that assures the intended victim that the call is legitimate is the fact that the caller knows the names and relationships of the intended victim’s family members.
Davis said investigators have learned that a lot of the scam artists who attempt to steal from individuals actually are former convicts who end up working in call centers around the country.
That allows them access to some personal information, including the names of some family members and other information regarding addresses and neighboring cities and towns.
“We don’t think it’s local,” Davis said.
But the number of such calls definitely is increasing. Davis and Treviño said they are being contacted by several intended victims here a week.
Both officers said that whatever anyone who receives such a call does, it is better to take time in responding to such a request.
“Do not run out, buy a money order and have it wired to the recipient the caller requests,” Davis said.
If a call seems suspicious, the intended victim should contact either the Beeville Police Department of Bee County Sheriff’s Office promptly to report the incident.
Because the caller tries to convince the intended victim that he knows the family, investigators recommend that the intended victim call some of those relatives and confirm the situation.
Also, try to get a return phone number, so the caller can be contacted later. Even though one caller who contacted an intended victim last week left a number that had been disconnected, any number might help police to find the caller.
If a caller wants to meet somewhere locally to take delivery of the money requested, immediately contact the police or sheriff’s office and follow their instructions.
They might be able to catch the thief in the act.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.