WSVN — South Florida is filled with sunny beaches, beautiful waterways, and of course lots of scammers.
Valeska Aguilez: "So when I get this call I'm like, 'What are they talking about?"
Valeska got a call from a man telling her he was from the federal government and said she had not repaid a loan and they were coming to get her.
Valeska Aguilez: "Telling me he's going to contact the sheriff's department and I was going to go to jail in two hours."
The caller screamed at her, cussed at her, trying to scare Valeska.
Valeska Aguilez: "He was likem, 'Oh, I wish you the best of luck you [expletive] idiot', this and this."
The goal of course is the same as every scammer separate the victim from their money.
Valeska Aguilez: "If you don't make the payment of $989 we will mark you black credit report."
There are several variations on the scare you scam, one is to call you and say they'll kidnap a family member if you don't wire $1,000 to us in an hour we will kill them.
A few weeks ago I got a call at work from someone who said he was with the DEA. He said they were coming to arrest me. Since I have heard about these I told them, 'Come on but wait till I finish lunch.' I laughed at them. Valeska didn't.
Valeska Aguilez: "I broke down. I started crying. I'm like whose going to watch my kids. So I called my husband and I'm telling him, I'm crying and I'm going to go to jail."
One reason Valeska was so frightened was because the caller knew everything about her.
Valeska Aguilez: "You live in such and such address and I'm like, 'Yes'. 'Your social is..', and he gives all my numbers on my social. He knows where I work at. He knows my apartment number. He has my cell phone number. He had my account number and my routing number . So, that's when I thought it was serious because he has all this information, it can't be just somebody prank calling me."
Valeska didn't fall for the scam in part because she didn't have money to pay him, but avoiding a scammer didn't make her feel any better.
Valeska Aguilez: "I was scared. I was frightened. I was confused. I was angry. I was all of the above."
Howard, we hear about this so often and each time we are told the scammers seem so convincing. So legally, why are they able to keep doing it?
Howard Finkelstein: "Clearly this is illegal but catching the crooks is extremely difficult. One thing to remember is the police will never call and tell you they are coming to arrest you, they just come and do it. Also, the police will never say, 'Pay me or you go to jail.' They are not debt collectors."
Go online, you can see how many people the scammers are targeting.
This one is from people who were told the sheriff was on the way to arrest them.
This one is like Valeska, being threatened with arrest for a loan they never got.
Howard Finkelstein: "If this happens to you, take a deep breath and say, 'Call me back in a few minutes', then call the police. Especially if the scammer says don't call the police."
The scammers didn't get Valeska, but they still worry her because of everything they know about her.
Valeska Aguilez: "They tried to withdraw money,
Most of these phone scammers don't know anything about you. The phony kidnappers start with, 'Do you have a brother or sister?' If you say yes, they say, 'We have them.'
So how did Valeska's crook get her private information? She doesn't know. But if you get a call making threats and asking for money, odds are it's a scam so hang up.
Feel like you are being threatened? Make a phone call to us.
Scammers are like rats, shine a light on them and watch him disappear. With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser 7 News.
Contact Help Me Howard:
Email: email@example.com (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at firstname.lastname@example.org