By Dawn Krebs
PORT ST. LUCIE - The Port St. Lucie Police Department is warning residents about a recent scam that has already cost one resident thousands.
Called the "pigeon drop" scam, it involves a victim, or "pigeon," who is convinced to give up a large amount of money in exchange for a larger amount of money. But the scam artists make off with the "pigeon's" money instead, leaving them with nothing.
"This type of scam has been around for a long time," said Master Sgt. Frank Sabol, public information officer for the Port St. Lucie Police Department. "I've seen a few of these."
On Oct. 3, police were called to investigate a fraud report filed by Pradel Bonnet, who was approached by two men inside of Sam's Club on U.S. 1 in Port St. Lucie.
"They look like unassuming people," said Sgt. Sabol. "They're dressed well, and they look like they could be your friend."
According to a police report, one of the men told Mr. Bonnet that "he had $75,000 in charity money to give away and that they wanted to give him the money, and as long as he promised to donate $50,000 of the money, he could keep the rest."
But the men said that they first wanted "good faith" money from Mr. Bonnet, who then drove the men to his bank and withdrew $4,000, which he gave to one of the men.
One of the men took the money, placed it inside of a blue handkerchief with the alleged "rest of the money." The man then gave Mr. Bonnet the handkerchief to keep.
After dropping the men off at a McDonald's near Bridge Plaza on Port St. Lucie Boulevard, Mr. Bonnet returned to his home and opened the handkerchief, only to discover it filled with cut up pieces of paper.
Master Sgt. Sabol said it should raise a red flag when well-dressed people approach a person and start talking.
"It's when they're being nice for no good reason," he said. "They're trying to find something in common to talk about, to make a person feel secure."
Master Sgt. Sabol said these types of criminals usually prey on the elderly, because there is a better chance of the person having a nest egg or savings.
"We are warning citizens to be cautious when dealing with strangers," said Master Sgt. Sabol. "If you start to get an uneasy feeling, end the conversation and walk away."