FORT WORTH, Texas — Victims in North Texas say scammers are operating on an entirely new level to get their hands on their money. Some scammers are now sending what looks like legitimate court documents to their victims.
Sonya Golden got a phone call at work, which turned into a nightmare for her and her husband recently. She owns and operates services for group homes in North Texas. Somehow, scammers obtained her business information and details about her PPE forgiveness loan. Golden told WFAA that the caller used that information to threaten her with jail time, saying she owed payment on the loan, despite its status of being forgiven.
Golden say her worst fear was, “going to jail,” because she had never been in trouble.
The caller even sent Golden documents with the FBI seal and a fake court document with bail set at $25,000. The paperwork also included some of her personal information to help it appear more legitimate.
“Well, I don’t have $25,000. So then he says, ‘Will you pay what you can?’ And we just have to process this and when you come down you’ll be given a court date,” said Golden.
The caller lured her to a Hemphill Drive gas station in Fort Worth and insisted she use a payment kiosk to deposit the bail money. But right before payment, she and her husband called the Fort Worth Police Department.
“They told us to leave because it was a scam,” said Golden.
Fort Worth Police Officer Tracy Carter spoke with WFAA about how his department has been dealing with scammers targeting people in Cowtown.
Unfortunately, it’s a crime the FWPD Financial Crimes Division has seen over and over again.
“We do see this a lot, especially with some of our older citizens in Fort Worth,” said Officer Carter.
Officer Carter shared scammers love to prey on senior citizens more willing to make payments. He said seniors tend to trust people more when they are being told alarming information and need to make things right. Despite the police department’s efforts to track down the culprits, many times it’s impossible to locate the suspects to recover victims’ money.
“I hate to say it’s slim to none a lot of times. We do have some detectives that work these types of scams, but usually, there are a lot of them overseas,” said Officer Carter.
David Wright told WFAA he and his wife Deborah were scammed out of $500. The Fort Worth couple are both senior citizens and live on fixed incomes. Unfortunately, the scammers convinced them to go to Walmart, buy a gift card and make a payment in order to avoid all of their accounts being frozen.
Wright said they believed the caller — who told them their information had been used by thieves whose accounts were frozen and it would also impact their accounts unless they paid restoration fees to keep access to their money.
Wright shared replies from his warning to others on the App Next Door.
One said, “Anyone asking for a gift card didn’t tip you off anyway?”
Ironically, a quick call to Apple will help them recover their $500, the company said. Apple explained because the scammer had not used the codes they shared with the suspects, they were able to block the gift card payout.
Deborah Cagliostro shared more about the scary experience too. “I kept saying I am up for drug trafficking and money laundering? Are you kidding me? We are just regular folks.”
Officer Carter urges people to hang up the phone on suspected scammers. He also urges people to put a lock on their credit reports and social security numbers if they suspect their personal information has been compromised and somehow is in the hands of scammers. He warned people should never make payments using gift cards or send money for a payment that cannot be verified as legitimate.