Welfare check leads to scam victim

OKEECHOBEE — After a man called the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office to ask for a welfare check on his friend, Sgt. Matthew Hurst responded to the man’s home to find out if everything was OK. The caller had reported speaking to his friend earlier in the day and feared his friend might have been the victim of fraud.

When Sgt. Hurst arrived, he was told the man had been charging his phone because he had been on the phone with law enforcement all day and the battery had run down. He said he had received a call earlier from someone claiming to be a treasury agent, who informed him there was a warrant out for his arrest because he had not paid his taxes. He explained the caller knew a lot about him, including his Social Security number and address. The caller told him to call the sheriff’s office to verify everything, and then the caller gave him the number to call and told him who to ask for. When he called the number, he was told to purchase gift cards and give the numbers to the officer on the phone. If he did this, “the officer” told him the warrant would be suspended. Throughout the day, he transferred $2,600 to the “officer.”

Sgt. Hurst told the man it was a scam, and unfortunately, he was out the money.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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