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Longboat Key Wednesday, Jul. 29, 2020 2 weeks ago

Longboat Key Police Department warns public of phone scam

Police Chief Pete Cumming said an old scam has re-emerged in Longboat Key.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

The Longboat Key Police Department is warning the public about phone scammers with a tried and true tale designed to fool people to wire them money through Western Union.

Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cumming said the scammers will call older people in the town, claiming to be their grandchildren and needing money to bond out of jail after an arrest.

“The caller will sound like a young person — and it probably is — and the caller will say ‘grandma’ or ‘grandpa.’ They won’t say who they are,” Cumming said. “They’ll say ‘Grandpa, I need your help.’”

Cumming said it’s not the first time this scam or similar ones have happened in Longboat Key.

“It's a pretty old fraud actually,” Cumming said. “We've really have it every couple of years. It seems that we have a few cases of it but we've actually had some victims that have fallen for it.”

In the past week, Cumming said Longboat Key has had a few incidents reported to the police department.

“Now, about 90% of the time they catch on,” Cumming said. “A couple years ago, we had one or two that didn’t and wired $5,000-plus through Western Union. Once it hits Western Union, we can’t track it.”

Cumming said he believes the scammers are targeting Longboat Key because it’s “an affluent community” with an older population compared to some of the surrounding areas. About 69% of Longboat Key’s 7,000 full-time residents are older than 65 years old.

“The natural instinct for an elderly person who has a grandchild in trouble is to help and so forth,” Cumming said. “I think we’re a bit more vulnerable than the average community. That’s just my opinion and I think I’m right about it.”

Cumming encourages anyone who receives a call like this to ask who the grandson or granddaughter is, hang up and to let the police department know by calling the non-emergency number at (941)316-1201.

“Call us. Let us make a report so we can add it to our database,” Cumming said. “We can track these things by numbers when they do come. Maybe in the future, if we have enough historical data, because people have called us, then we might be able to predict some kind of pattern or timing.”

Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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