The idea of falling prey to a phone scam in which a fraudulent artist asks for “money or others” may arouse suspicion from someone who has never encountered a skilled artist.
But under the right conditions on the wrong day, almost anyone can be fooled.
This is what happened to Marcy Shemaria, a licensed mental health counselor and certified professional addiction specialist whose work made her familiar with the application of the law and the court system.
A 61-year-old Pensacola woman was recently misled by a scam artist who allegedly was a police officer and paid him $ 6,000 and is now struggling to get him back.
“It made me feel like an idiot,” she told the News Journal. “I feel embarrassed. Two of my best friends are judges. I feel very embarrassed.”
Last week, the Pensacola Police Department issued a warning to residents about a scam in which a man pretending to be lieutenant directed them to pay cash to summon a forged arrest warrant.
Several Pensacola residents took calls, but PPD spokesman Mike Wood said Shammaria was the only person to date to be caught in the scam. He described the fraud as “well-organized and unique.”
“I’d like to put this in the ‘unique category,’ with the efforts it appears to have gone into,” Wood said of the fraud. For example, they were able to copy the phone number of the police station, so when they called, the department number appeared. “
The fraudsters’ knowledge of the local court system is another element that helped deceive Shemaria. She recognized the name of a local judge that fraudsters referred to and who could follow their background logic.
As of Friday, it had not been compensated for its losses.
“It feels like the banks don’t care,” she said.
Shammaria received a message on her phone from a man claiming to be “Lieutenant Matt Coverdale” from the Pensacola Police Department. The officer left a message that because of HIPAA, he couldn’t tell her why he needed to talk to her.
The story seemed plausible, especially since Chamaria had been a witness in several cases of the Escambian district courts, a fact confirmed by the Prosecutor’s Office.
“I am a mental health therapist. I am being summoned to court all the time,” Shamaria told the News Journal.
So she called the man – who she later learned was not a police lieutenant but was impersonating only one – and he told her that the judge, whose name she recognized from a previous judicial act, had issued a warrant for her arrest.
“They said that the judge is upset that I did not attend a federal court session that I was called to,” Shamaria said. “They said I signed the subpoena and that the judge – because he was federal, and they had to bring this person to court – was angry with me and gave me two orders.”
Shammaria recalled that the fraud artist told her that the orders charged her one count of not appearing and one count of contempt of court and provided her with seemingly trustworthy identification numbers.
“I kept stating that I didn’t get a subpoena and no one came to my office at all,” Shamaria recalls. “I was told I had to pay the fee of $ 6,000.” One was $ 2,500, which is 10% of $ 25,000, and another $ 3,500, which is 10% of $ 35,000. “
The voice on the other end of the line sounded somewhat formal and impulsive, and Shammaria got scared.
“They said that I could not tell the bank why they needed to withdraw the money because I was under a gag order, and the bond will not be on the table, and I will be arrested and imprisoned for violating the publication ban order. If I spoke to anyone,” she said.
She didn’t want to go to jail.
“I’ve never had an arrest warrant before,” she said. “How the hell will I know? Do you know?
Still on the phone call, Shimaria was diverted to another fraudster who called himself “Lieutenant Worley” and made it clear that in order to send the money, you’ll need to transfer the money to MoneyPaks.
She later told real police investigators how, in a panic, she drove her car to BBVA bank on North Davis highway, withdrew $ 2,000 from her account before driving to Navy Federal Credit Union and withdrew $ 1,000, according to the police report.
When she tells the fraudsters that she has reached her withdrawal limit and only managed to get $ 3,000, Shammaria is turned into a third fraudster. He identified himself as a “financial advisor” and guided her through the process of contacting the Federal Navy and securing the remaining $ 3,000 that he claimed needed to stay out of prison.
Ultimately, Shemaria put $ 6,000 in cash into 12 MoneyPak cards, worth $ 500 per card, according to the police report.
She scratched the back of the MoneyPak cards while sitting in the Winn Dixie’s car park and read fraudsters the ID numbers on the cards while it was raining outside.
“It was horrific,” she recalled. “They said that sometimes things did not go through the mail properly and that I read to them the numbers on the cars.” “It was horrible, just horrible.”
Satisfied with the money they stole from her, the fraudsters ordered her to drive to Pensacola Police Headquarters to sign the final papers. When Shammaria did, she knew it was.
The day after her deception, Shamaria told the News Journal that she had provided copies of the police report to both her bank and credit union in an effort to secure the repayment.
She said BBVA did not respond to her inquiries until Friday.
“The Federal Navy said, yes, it was a scam, but you are not covered to return the money to your account,” Shamaria said. “I am not covered because I withdrew the money.”
She added, “I have given them the police reports to make sure that this is legitimate. How can they be insured, but as their client I am not insured?”
In a statement, Navy Federal said that “Due to privacy concerns, Navy Federal cannot provide information about a specific member’s account issues.”
Contacted by News Journal on Friday, a BBVA bank representative said the bank would contact Shemaria soon, and added in a written statement that, “Please understand that due to privacy policies, BBVA USA is unable to comment on or disclose specific information regarding client accounts or Fraud Investigations.