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Pair of time-tested scams prompt a warning

Published Sep. 29, 2005

"Bank examiner" and "quick change artist" ruses are making cyclical rounds in the county, sheriff's officials say.

Practitioners of two time-tested swindles are afoot in Pasco, and the Sheriff's Office is asking the public to beware.

Scam artists in recent weeks have targeted residents with the "bank examiner scam," posing as law enforcement officers who are investigating the theft of money from the target's bank account. To catch the culprit, the impostors say, you must withdraw cash from your account and let them borrow it.

The con artists have recently approached a handful of people with the scheme, said sheriff's Detective Jeff Gray, but so far no one has lost money _ no one, at least, who has reported it to police.

Many hesitate to report falling for such scams because they're ashamed.

"We hope people will swallow their pride and call us," Gray said.

Last Wednesday, a con man masquerading as a police officer called a Holiday woman in her 70s and asked her to withdraw $4,600 from her bank, said sheriff's spokesman Jon Powers. When the woman told bank employees, they contacted police.

Two other crooks used another technique _ the "quick change artist scam" _ to swindle two Kash n' Karry stores in New Port Richey in Holiday last Wednesday, making off with a total of $299. The pair failed when they tried it at a Mobil station in Hudson on Monday, because a clerk spotted the ruse.

In that scam, crooks will enter a store, buy a small item such as a can of beer or soda and ask for change. Before the clerk can make change, they present a big bill and ask for more change, moving fast enough to confuse the clerk into handing over more than is owed. "It's a very smooth thing, to watch it done," Gray said.

The bank examiner scam occasionally dupes people, because the smooth-talking crooks seem to be armed with personal information about the victims _ information gleaned, possibly, from obituaries, authorities say.

That scam, Gray said, seems to reappear at intervals.

"It's a seasonal thing," Gray said. "It's a cycle thing. From time to time they blow into town."

Powers said no law enforcement officer, in the course of an investigation, will ask someone to withdraw money from an account. He said reports of such scams come in clusters.

"There is rarely ever a single victim," he said. "So we expect more."

Those with information on either of these swindles should call the Sheriff's Office at (800) 854-2862, ext. 7291.