Scammers Targeting the Elderly in Sweetwater: Police

Con artists claim light, phone or power will be shut off unless elderly pay up

By Hank Tester and Brian Hamacher
|  Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013  |  Updated 8:14 PM EDT
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Authorities in Sweetwater are warning residents about con artists who are targeting the elderly in scams, claiming their light, phone or cable will be shut off unless they pay up. A 76-year-old victim, Mirta Rodriguez, and Sweetwater city spokeswoman Michelle Hammontree-Garcia spoke about the con that was pulled on Rodriguez.

Authorities in Sweetwater are warning residents about con artists who are targeting the elderly in scams, claiming their light, phone or cable will be shut off unless they pay up. A 76-year-old victim, Mirta Rodriguez, and Sweetwater city spokeswoman Michelle Hammontree-Garcia spoke about the con that was pulled on Rodriguez.

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Authorities in Sweetwater are warning residents about con artists who are targeting the elderly in scams, claiming their light, phone or cable will be shut off unless they pay up.

One of the more recent cons happened last month, when 76-year-old Mirta Rodriguez received a call telling her that her electricity bill was late and to avoid having her power shut off she'd have to go to a local pharmacy and buy a $200 money card, police said.

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Rodriguez bought the card and gave the caller, who identified himself as Carlo Juarez, the card number, which he used to take the money out.

“She gave him the card number, and hung up the phone. The next thing she knows there is no more money in the card," Sweetwater city spokeswoman Michelle Hammontree-Garcia recounted. "She calls FP&L to see if her balance is paid off, and they told her that they would never ask anybody to pay a bill with their money card.”

The FPL representative told Rodriguez she had been the victim of a fraud.

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Sweetwater Police said detectives have visited area elderly centers to alert potential victims to never pay a utility bill with a money card or give out personal information like their Social Security number, date of birth, address or phone number.

Many seniors already knew about the scam, Hammontree-Garcia said.

“They said, ‘Oh, I’ve been called before. They’ve called me. But I didn’t fall for it.’ So it wasn’t anything new to them," she said.

Anyone who feels they may be a victim of fraud should call the police.

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