WASHINGTON -- Authorities are warning D.C.-area residents to beware of scammers approaching people in store parking lots, initiating conversations, gaining their confidence and convincing them to withdraw and hand-over money.
The so-called "confidence schemes" have been reported at two Virginia Home Depot parking lots and twice at a shopping center in Bethesda, says Lucy Caldwell, spokeswoman with the Fairfax County Police Department.
In one Virginia instance, two men approached a 68-year-old man in the parking lot of a Merrifield Home Depot on Tuesday, Aug. 6 and asked him for help and directions. The suspects engaged the victim in a lengthy conversation, earning his trust, and convinced him to withdraw a large sum of money from a bank and give it to them, Caldwell says.
The day before, a suspect approached a 30-year-old man in the parking lot of a Seven Corners Home Depot and offered him cash for a ride to D.C. During the drive, the victim says the two discussed U.S. banking institutions at length and established a rapport. The suspect convinced the victim to withdraw $9,000 and give it to him.
In both Virginia cases, the suspects are described as black, with heavy accents, possibly Jamaican, ranging from 40 to 60 years old.
In Maryland, two similar incidents have been reported recently. On Aug. 6, two men approached a 77-year-old man in a Bank of America parking lot on Rockville Pike, say Montgomery County police. The first suspect showed the victim a large amount of cash and told him he didn't trust banks. During the conversation, the two suspects were able to convince the victim to withdraw $10,000 from a Bethesda SunTrust Bank and give it to them. They then told the victim they were going to get food and would return, but never did.
The suspects were described as black with a Jamaican accent. One of the men was about 5-feet-9-inches tall, between 40 and 45 and wearing a brown jacket and hat. The second suspect was about 6-feet tall with short hair, wearing a white shirt.
On July 26, a man and a woman approached a 68-year-old woman in a Giant Foods parking lot on Rockville Pike and told her if she gave them $1,700, they would invest the money and return with $400,000. The victim gave the suspects the money and the suspects never returned, according to Montgomery County police.
In this instance, both suspects were described as black, in their early- to mid-30s. The man was about 6-feet-tall and wearing a white button-down and brown pants. The woman was short and wearing capri pants.
Detectives are not definitively linking the cases, however the circumstances are similar and they warn people to be wary of strangers in parking lots.
Montgomery County police say the suspects in this type of confidence fraud are often "smart, persuasive and aggressive." They "hope to confuse and overwhelm victims and convince victims that there is a sense of urgency to make quick decisions."
One of the Maryland suspects said they felt intimidated and threatened by the suspects. Other victims say they felt confused and embarrassed and postponed contacting police.
Anyone with information about these incidents is asked to call Crime Solvers at 1 (866) 411-TIPS/8477.
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