The “pigeon drop,” normally reported to police about once a year in the city, has happened twice in the last few weeks, according to Detective Capt. Ralph Dance of the Corinth Police Department.
Meanwhile, Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, while visiting Corinth last week, said his office is seeing a rash of reports of the Jamaican lottery scam.
Dance said the most recent pigeon drop victim, an elderly woman, was taken for $900 last week.
“This lady had just cashed her check, and they ended up taking her wallet,” he said.
Often targeting the elderly, it is usually perpetrated by a couple of individuals outside businesses where people are shopping and often near banks.
“They approach the victim with what they say is a bag of money that they found or inherited and they would like the victim to help with it,” said Dance.
The victim may be asked to hold the bag but are asked to hand over some of their own money or jewelry to the perpetrator in order to show good faith until the deal is done. The victim is often left holding a bag stuffed with worthless paper and never sees her money again.
The scam often involves the victim driving to the bank with the perpetrators.
“Don’t let strangers in your car,” said Dance.
The perpetrators are usually outsiders who commit the scam and quickly move on.
The prior victim in the city handed over $750.
Anyone approached with such an offer should call the police, Dance said.
The Jamaican lottery scam involves a phone call and does not fall under the PSC’s jurisdiction because it is not a sales pitch, but Presley said people are losing huge sums of money to the scheme.
The call often comes from an 876 number, and the recipient is told he or she has won a large sum of money that can be claimed by purchasing a prepaid card, such as Green Dot MoneyPak, and sending it to the caller.
“We had a gentleman down in Prentiss County that sent $354,000 to these folks, $25,000 of which was cash,” said Presley.
But the lottery jackpot never came to him.
“You might as well take that money and burn it,” said Presley.
The commissioner also warns that the perpetrators are persistent.
“They’ll wear you out,” he said. “What we tell people is once they start that conversation, hang the phone up. Do not get into a long conversation with them, because they will literally worry you to death.”
The PSC can help people try to get the phone number blocked from calling them, but there may be a charge by the phone company. The perpetrators also frequently change their number.
“This thing is rampant and it is affecting people, and I will bet you there is somebody here in Alcorn County right now that is being taken advantage of,” said Presley.
The PSC is taking information on the complaints it gets and turning them over to the attorney general’s office for investigation. Presley said people who get the call should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov.