A roving group of scam artists are preying on elderly women in New York City, tricking them into emptying their bank accounts of cash, NYPD investigators said Thursday.
A pattern of 24 cases stretching as far back as June 2011 and as recently as Nov. 21 have victimized a group of women ranging in age from 67 to 93, said Lt. Kevin Paynter, of the Internal Affairs Bureau.
The scam involves a man posing as a police officer or a bank officer who calls the victim to say a woman posing as her daughter had been arrested for handling counterfeit money that may have involved the elderly woman's bank account, Paynter said. He added that very often the victims didn't have a daughter, a fact which the suspects used to create a sense of urgency in the victim about the need for her to cooperate with the so-called "investigation."
Victims were asked to take money out of their bank accounts so that investigators could check the currency, an explanation that Paynter said wouldn't make sense to someone who wasn't as vulnerable or gullible.
"Our victims, when we interview them after the fact, say they [the suspects] are so soothing," said Paynter.
About 18 of the victims actually made cash withdrawals totaling $333,000 from their accounts and turned the money over to the suspects on the street, according to police. Six of the victims never made cash withdrawals. Officials released a video Thursday of one of the encounters between a suspect and 84-year-old victim on a Brooklyn street in July.
Paynter said there are about four suspects who travel around the country pulling off the frauds in places like Texas.
"The scam is very easily defeated by remembering that police officers never ask for money," Paynter stressed.
Police are asking anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS.