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Clearwater woman, 89, loses $13,000 in scam, police say

CLEARWATER — An 89-year-old woman is out $13,000 in cash and jewelry after she was the victim of a scam Saturday, authorities said.

Clearwater police said two women persuaded the woman to hand over valuables. They warn that the women have tried the scam before and may try it again.

About 2:40 p.m. Saturday, the victim was approached by one of the women as she returned to her car in the parking lot of Sam's Club at 2575 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd.

The woman, who was dressed in black, bent down to pick up a wallet, which contained money and a lottery ticket.

She showed the wallet to the 89-year-old as the second suspect approached. The two suspects talked about cashing in the winning lottery ticket and persuaded the victim to drive to her bank and withdraw money, police said.

The victim then drove them back to the Sam's Club parking lot, where she also turned over pieces of jewelry as collateral for the ticket.

The women also directed the victim to go to a bank and meet with an employee who could help her obtain more money, police said.

The elderly woman went to the bank, asked for the employee and was told the person didn't work there.

"That's when she realized that she had been had," said Clearwater police spokeswoman Beth Watts.

Police are calling it a "pigeon drop scam," where suspects persuade victims to give up money or valuables to secure a larger sum of money or more valuable object.

Two similar cases were reported on Jan. 29, one in the Target parking lot at 2747 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd., and the other in the Publix parking lot at 525 S Belcher Road.

The two women followed the same method of operation in those cases, police said.

Typically, one casually dressed woman pretends to find the valuable items. A second nicely dressed women approaches afterward.

In two of the cases, the women pretended not to know each other. In one case they asked the victim for money, and in the other they did not. Both of the victims in the Jan. 29 instances, an 82-year-old woman and a 79-year-old woman, refused to cooperate with the suspects and reported the incident to police.

The suspects are described as black and in their mid 40s. They may be driving a tan or champagne-colored four-door, late-model vehicle, possibly a Mercury Grand Marquis or a Ford Crown Victoria. The car appears to have damage to the right-rear quarter panel.

Clearwater police ask anyone who has come into contact with the women or has been a victim to call the Clearwater Police Department at (727) 562-4422 or (727) 562-4242.

Clearwater woman, 89, loses $13,000 in scam, police say 03/08/10 [Last modified: Monday, March 8, 2010 5:01pm]
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