Naples Police using signs in stores to warn of scams

Posted at 7:00 PM, Aug 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-26 19:00:20-04

Police often issue warnings about convincing new strategies that scammers are using to defraud honest people. Now police in Naples are trying out a new tool to keep you from becoming a victim.

Sgt. Kyle Bennet of the Naples Police Department says phone scams are big business for crooks, who especially target elderly folks - often with a ruse that a loved one is in jail, and needs them to buy a prepaid gift card to bail them out.

"Once they instill that fear is when citizens will go out and purchase gift cards," Bennett said. "Once they give the numbers of the gift card over the phone, it's as good as spent at that point."

Scammers will often pretend to be with the Internal Revenue Service, and tell the victim that they owe an outstanding tax balance. Fraudsters may also pose a representative with Florida Power & Light, and threaten to shut off the power unless the victim makes an immediate payment.

Bennett found out that police in Coral Springs were putting up signs in stores that sell prepaid gift cards, warning potential victims that they may have fallen for a scam. Friday, Bennett put up one of the signs, in the shape and color of a "stop" sign, in the 7-Eleven store on 7th Avenue North.

Store manager Braxton Johnson said he wants to help, because his employees have been hit by scammers.

"They'll say that they're from 7-Eleven headquarters in Texas, and that they're trying to see if our PIN pads are operating properly," Johnson said. "(The scammers will) ask them to grab a couple of Green Dot card packs and swipe them, and load them up with about $2,000 or so."

"You can lose money pretty quickly doing that," he added.

Bennett said he is trying to get approval from the corporate offices of Walgreen's ad Publix to put the signs in their Naples stores.