An old con game called "bait and switch" has resurfaced in Sacramento, the Sacramento Police Department warns, claiming at least four victims in the past weeks.
The victims lost "thousands of dollars" to the scam operators, according to a Police Department news release.
Here is how the Police Department outlined the typical operation of this scam:
Usually, a victim is approached in the parking lot of a shopping center, post office or financial institution by a black male who says he is from Africa and claims to be lost.
The suspect will give the victim a telephone number to call where a supposed attorney will ask the victim to give "his client" a ride and provides directions.
Once the victim agrees, the suspect relays a story that he has a large amount of money from an inheritance or something similar, and that he cannot take the money back to his country because the government will take it or kill him.
The suspect then indicates he would rather donate the money to a church or charity. When the victim buys into the story, he will take the suspect to a pre-designated location where they will encounter a "stranger" who engages them in conversation.
The stranger is part of the scam and a conspirator to the crime. The suspect will tell his story again and the "stranger" offers to help. The suspect asks the "stranger" if he could donate the money for him and that as a reward, he can keep some of it for himself.
The suspect will ask the "stranger" if he is trustworthy and that he would have to prove that he doesn't intend to keep all of the money for himself. To prove it, the suspect asks the "stranger" to go to his bank and withdraw money from his account (to show that he has his own money and that he would not be tempted to keep all of the money for himself).
The suspect then gets the victim to drive both he and the "stranger" to the bank so that he can withdraw money. The "stranger" supposedly goes into the bank and withdraws a large sum of money, comes back to the car and shows it to the suspect.
The suspect makes the same proposition to the victim. The victim usually agrees to withdraw money from his own account as a symbol of trust.
The suspect will take the victim's money and the "stranger's" money and cover it with a "prayer cloth." The suspect will pray and bless the money at which time he also switches the victim's money with the "stranger's" money.
The suspect will keep the money covered with the "prayer cloth" and usually says that the "stranger" agreed to drive him the rest of the way. Once the suspects leave, the victim discovers that his money was switched with the "stranger's" money (usually pieces of newspaper cut to the size of bills).
The Sacramento Police Department asks anyone with information pertaining to this crime to contact Crime Alert at (916) 443-HELP or text in a tip to 274637 (CRIMES). Enter SACTIP followed by the tip information.
Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.