CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - The Charleston County Sheriff's Office released surveillance images they say show suspects in a scam that cheated an 82-year-old out of thousands of dollars.
Deputies are hoping the public will recognize the people shown the images.
The scam is called a "pigeon drop" and is a confidence trick in which a victim, known as a "pigeon," is persuaded to give up a sum of money in order to secure the rights to a larger sum of money or more valuable object, according to Charleston Co. Sheriff's Lt. C.W. Brokaw. In reality, the scammers make off with the money and their victim is left with nothing.
"It's just unfortunate how people have such low moral values to stoop to doing something like that," said Paul Johnson, II, whose 82-year-old mother was a victim.
The woman was tricked out of nearly $5,000, and the scammers are likely to strike again, Brokaw said.
"That was all the money she had," Johnson said.
Johnson says his mother planned on buying a car.
Johnson said, "First of all, they watched her in the bank."
Deputies say she cashed a check at the Bank of Walterboro in Ravenel and was approached by a woman in the parking lot. The woman claimed to have a bag full of money, and that's when a man walked up and joined the conversation to further distract the victim.
"So when one talk, the other one distracts so a person can't keep their mind on what they're doing," Johnson said.
During the conversation the woman asked for a ride to the Publix near Bees Ferry Road, where Johnson said the woman claimed she was an employee.
"She just gave them a ride out of the kindness of her heart," said Johnson.
When they got to Publix, Johnson's mom told deputies the woman made up another story in order to get her hands on the victim's money.
In this part of the scam, Brokaw says, the scammers trick the victim into placing her money with theirs, usually in an envelope, briefcase or sack, which the victim is often entrusted with. The money, however, doesn't actually go into the container the victim receives: instead, the container is switched for a a bag full or newspaper while the victim is distracted.
Through various theatrics, Brokaw says, the victim is given the chance to flee with the presumed money, when all of the money remains in the possession of the scammer.
Johnson said, "I think by this time you have violated integrity, moral values, a sense of consideration and everything that goes well with being a normal human being."
Johnson is hoping their tricks come to an end once and for all.
"They're going to do it again. Fortunately, hopefully somebody catch them this time, and they pay for the crime they committed," said Johnson, "You do the crime, you do the time."
If you have been approached by someone in this manner, or if you can identify the people shown in the surveillance images, call the Charleston County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigations Division at (843) 554-2475 and ask for Detective Miller.
You can also call Crime Stoppers at (843) 554-1111.