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"Bank examiner' scam targets older residents

Tampa's elderly are being targeted in a well-worn scam with a new twist that has left at least two senior citizens $4,000 poorer, police say.

The "bank examiner's scam" works like this: A woman calls random numbers until an older person answers. The caller asks for help in catching a bank teller who is stealing and asks that the person withdraw money to let someone examine it.

When the victim gets home from the bank, a man dressed in a suit and carrying a badge arrives and while "examining" the money, distracts the victim and switches envelopes. The victim is left with an envelope full of newspaper, and the "investigator" vanishes with the cash-filled envelope.

Scam artists usually say they are bank examiners, but the latest suspects are passing themselves off as Tampa police officers, authorities said. So far, one man has lost $3,000, and a woman has lost $1,500. Police said both are frightened and embarrassed by the thefts and have asked that reporters not contact them.

"Be very aware of anyone who calls you and asks you to remove money from your bank," Deputy Police Chief Ken Taylor said. "Police don't do that."

At least 10 people in Tampa have been called in the past several days, police said.

Detective Dale Tuvell said he thinks there may be two groups of scam artists working in north and south Tampa.

"These people are very polished in what they do," Tuvell said. "This is not a fly-by-night operation."

Police also urged people to warn elderly friends and relatives about the scam. Anyone with a complaint or information can reach Tuvell at 274-5917.

_ KATHERINE SHAVER

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