If there’s one skill I would say almost every law enforcement officer possesses, it’s the ability to recognize when someone is being dishonest.
Those who are sworn to protect and serve develop a healthy dose of skepticism, because we deal with those who prey on others every day.
Here are two examples of scams we’ve seen in central Florida that we want to warn you about that we’ve encountered recently, because not everyone can tell when they’re being duped.
We’ve taken three reports so far from people who received unsolicited text messages from unfamiliar phone numbers that contain disturbing images depicting mutilated and decapitated bodies.
These images are ghastly – really gruesome stuff. We know the instinct of someone who receives a message like that would be to respond to the sender and ask, “What the heck is this?” The unknown sender will then reply and claim they are members of a drug cartel; their purpose is to scare the recipients into paying money out of fear of being targeted for acts of violence.
These messages may even include pictures of the recipient's home, or information about the recipient gleaned from open sources (name, address, family members) such as Google and social media.
If you receive a text message like we've described, please notify law enforcement immediately and do not engage in a conversation with the sender.
Our deputies recently arrested two suspects in the Winter Haven area, named Brandon Hayes and Adam Keel, for numerous charges stemming from illegal business practices. Their "company," Big City Asphalt, ripped-off a couple of people with shoddy work.
Their scam involved soliciting homeowners in a very aggressive manner – knocking on their doors, calling and even FaceTiming – insisting that the victims needed their driveways paved. They scammed one victim out of $2,000 and the other out of $5,500. They then laid down layers of dirt mixed with asphalt and sprayed over it with diesel fuel.
Then they left, never to be heard from again (until we caught up with them).
If either of these scenarios sounds familiar to you, please let us know. We want to warn others so they don’t become victims, too.