Two victims scammed out of thousands at Washington Costco parking lots
Some scammers (unrelated to Costco) have been hitting up people in Costco parking lots as they go to their cars, using what seems to be an in-person version of a typical email scam.
“I think that their targets are predominantly women and, yes, probably some older, more vulnerable women, and also people maybe who struggle a little bit with English. You’ve got to think of the old Nigerian email scam. It’s just the same old thing, just this one is happening face to face,” Lynnwood Police Department spokesperson Joanna Small told the Dori Monson Show.
“We’ve seen at least twice in our Costco parking lot an individual who claims to be from West Africa, approaches this woman and says that he’s lost and that he has a large inheritance, … from a family member,” Small explained. “I think in the report that I was just reading, he said $200,000, and he’s looking to make some donations to charity, but he’s lost and he needs help.”
At that point, the scammer says their lawyer is on the cell phone to explain, and the victim is then convinced to go to another location, usually a fast food parking lot, where they are asked for cash with the promise of a good return on investment.
“The victim, for one reason or another, complies, then drives this individual over to that parking lot where a second person appears on scene, and somehow the two of them together talk about wanting to donate money to charity, and one shows the other allegedly a large sum of cash, and then asks the victim, ‘Would you make a donation too?’ and ‘there will be a return on your investment,'” she said.
“And the victim has gone to the ATM and withdrawn $10,000 in both of these cases — just that we know about — given that money to the individuals and, in the most recent case we had, which was just last week, they said, ‘We want to know we can trust you, so we want you to get in your car and drive to the other side of the parking lot and then come back.’ She got in her car and drove to the other side of the parking lot, and when she came back, they were gone,” Small said. “And she’s never going to see her $10,000 again.”
For Small, the issue isn’t wondering how someone could fall for this, but rather to inform the public this is happening in case there’s a vulnerable person in their lives who could become a victim of the scam.
“I mean, we don’t want you exactly to spend your time thinking, ‘How could somebody be so foolish?’ Instead, we want you to say, ‘Is there somebody in my life who is vulnerable? Is there somebody in my life who maybe needs to hear this from me?’ Just remember, don’t give money to any strangers,” Small said. “They always have a sob story to tell. That’s how they prey on people. And obviously this works because if it didn’t work, they wouldn’t still be doing it.”
“Because technically, these are really hard to investigate as crimes because people weren’t forced to do anything,” she added. “That’s what makes it so challenging. So before they become a victim, let’s just try to prevent them from ever getting into this conversation to begin with.”
Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.