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Longboat Key Police Detective Bob Bourque.
Longboat Key Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016 6 years ago

Holidays mean open season for scamsters on Longboat Key

Longboat Key Police Detective Bob Bourque said keeping the ho-ho-ho in your holidays means paying attention at a time of multiple merrymaking distractions.
by: Terry O’Connor News Editor

’Tis the season for light-fingered Grinches to strip the holiday spirit from unsuspecting families with online scams, telephone rip-offs, gas pump skimmers and home package delivery thefts.

Longboat Key Police Detective Bob Bourque said keeping the ho-ho-ho in your holidays means paying attention at a time of multiple merrymaking distractions.

“We have the same problem on the island as they do everywhere else,” Bourque said. “There’s just so many different scams.”

Many scams target senior citizens, which means Longboat Key is a ripe hunting grounds. The median age on Longboat Key is 70.4, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

“They target seniors because they are more trusting,” said Deputy Police Chief Frank Rubino. “They grew up wanting to help the next person and aren’t as suspicious.”

On Longboat Key, or any other beach municipality, being too trusting can be costly. It’s no longer a given your goods will still be on the beach after you’ve taken a dip in the Gulf of Mexico, Bourque said.

“There are people who travel the entire state going to beach accesses and looking for valuables on the beach and in unlocked cars,” he said. “The biggest way that we, the people on Longboat Key, have a crime is a simple car burglary.”

Don’t have holiday packages delivered to an unattended doorstep. Thieves look for that.

“Have it dropped at a neighbor’s house or your work,” Rubino said. “Now with tracking numbers, you pretty much know when it’s coming.”

One of the newest scams is cracking the PayPal online payment system to access eBay accounts.

“Our victims had set up accounts with eBay and somebody got into the eBay system,” Bourque said. “They went into people’s profile and changed addresses and ordered stuff because they had saved their credit card information. They ordered a lot of stuff.”

Police detectives check online listings for Longboat Key constantly to ensure authenticity, Bourque said.

“We go on Craigslist every single day, and look for those on Longboat Key, and mark ones that don’t check out as frauds,” Bourque said. “Obviously, we don’t catch every one of them. But we look for them. And they’ll be there every day.”

Another scam — credit card skimmers. Police Chief Pete Cumming said two card skimmers were found recently in gas pumps at the only station on the island.

Cumming said consumers should look at the pump for any apparent tampering and protect themselves further by using a pump directly in the line of sight of the store clerk.

“Skimmers are all over the place,” Bourque said.

Longboat Key residents are not immune from simple fraud. A new twist on an old check-swap scam snagged $1,500 recently from a woman looking for work, according to a Longboat Key Police Department report.

She received a $1,650 check from who she thought was her new employer with a note attached saying it was for expenses. The victim deposited the check and was under the impression it cleared, according to the report.

“Sometimes it takes up to two weeks to find out these checks are worthless,” Bourque said.

The victim was out $1,500, according to the detective.

Catching online criminals is unlikely, authorities say. Digital reach is global, and the shell game is complex.

Cumming and Bourque said a “fraudster” in Ukraine can access private data and send purchases to a drop house operated by an unsuspecting employee hired online. The purchases are shipped overseas and quickly sold.

“Try solving that crime,” Cumming said.

And, be wary of door-to-door pitchmen. All solicitors require a permit to operate on Longboat Key.

“And we don’t issue many of those,” Cumming said.

’Tis also the season to keep a charitable spirit toward religious door knockers.

“A permissible purpose is a religious endeavor,” Cumming said. “We can’t stop that. It’s a constitutional (right).”


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