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Summit County Sheriff intercepts financial scammer preying on elderly woman

Members of the Summit County Sheriff's Office surround an employee who helped avert a possible scam involving thousands of dollars.
Summit County Sheriff's Office
Members of the Summit County Sheriff's Office surround an employee who helped avert a possible scam involving thousands of dollars.

The Summit County sheriff’s routine gas station stop saved an elderly woman from losing thousands to a would-be scammer last week

When Summit County Sheriff Frank Smith stopped at the Kimball Junction Chevron station to refuel and get a drink Sept. 5, a station employee told him a woman inside might the victim of a scam in progress.

Chief Deputy Kacey Bates says the sheriff’s timing couldn’t have been better.

“As he was purchasing the drink, the attendant at the gas station, said to him, ‘Sheriff, I believe this woman is getting scammed,’” Bates said. “Sheriff Smith engaged in a conversation with her. She was on the phone, and she was very distraught. He talked to her, he took the phone from her and the individual on the other end of the line hung up immediately once Sheriff Smith identified himself.”

The scammer had kept the woman on the phone for nearly five hours. He convinced her she had overdrawn an account and because of her age, Bates says she was likely unaware of how these scammers operate.

“This individual convinced this elderly female to go to two different banks and withdraw $15,000 out of her account," Bates said. “And they're able to do this because they elevate your stress level and when you do that you don't know what to do. You're not thinking clearly. And you do some things that maybe in in normal circumstances or you're more relaxed that you wouldn't do if you had time to think about it.”

Even though the phone call had lasted five hours, Bates says they were unable to catch the scammers.

“They use robocalling and so, you don't know where that's coming from,” she said. “They use these other addresses they spoof them, and so you're unable to tell where they're coming from.”

The woman was about to start feeding her funds into a bitcoin machine when the sheriff approached her. The employee who was interviewed after the ordeal told police that he would have intervened before letting her put money into the machine.

The sheriff’s office presented the employee with an outstanding citizen’s certificate.

“We just felt that he went above and beyond,” she said. “We at the sheriff's office and every sheriff's office, if you see something, say something. Right? How often have you heard that and he did that. He demonstrated this and saved this woman from being a victim and inserting $15,000 into a machine.”

This is a good incident to remind both old and young residents that they’re the most scammed age groups. While the older population is scammed for monetary gain, younger people, she says are being victimized for sending explicit photographs which are then used to blackmail them.

“It's really about education,” Bates said. “Don't engage in a conversation with strangers over the phone, don't respond to emails, text messages or phone calls [from strangers]. Do not send money using gift cards as payment. And you can always call the sheriff's office to verify if anybody from the sheriff's office calls you and asks for money. We will not do that.”

Bates says scams like this are plaguing the community at an alarming rate. Just a few days prior to this incident, she says top-ranking sheriff’s department employees received multiple phone calls from citizens wishing to verify demands to send money in lieu of going to jail. She says the demands were not legitimate and were, in fact, made by scammers pretending to be sheriff’s office employees.