A 64-year-old resident of Cardinal Lane in Palm Coast got an odd contact on Facebook messenger a few days ago. Apparently he’s not the only one who did.
The message purported to be from Sheriff Rick Staly. The user name on the message was “rick.staly.5” and the profile picture on the account was that of Staly, whose image can be ubiquitous on social media and news sites, and easily stolen.
It was a scam. The impostor was making up a story about a $100,000 benefit the 64 year old was eligible for, through the Department of Health and Human Services. The impostor first contacted the man after midnight on June 5, making cordial small talk on the messenger app. The impostor then asked if the man had received anything from the federal department, telling him that it was providing a special fund for retired and disabled workers.
The impostor claimed he’d seen the 64-year-old man’s name on a DHHS list, and wanted to be sure he was aware.
The resident became suspicious and asked if the impostor was, in fact, Sheriff Staly. The impostor did not respond, but continued to attempt to converse with the individual, telling him to contact DHHS attorneys so they’d be aware. The imposter asked the resident if he knew how to contact the attorneys, likely baiting the man into giving up information that could then be misused.
The resident didn’t bite. He realized he wasn’t communicating with the sheriff, and instead contacted the sheriff’s office to make them aware of the potential scam. He sent screen shots of the conversation to a deputy.
“I want the public to know that neither I nor any other law enforcement deputy will contact you online or by phone to ask for money or to send you money,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “It is unfortunate that some people would rather spend their time trying to con people out of their hard-earned money rather than make an honest living.”
It is telling, and another indication of the sheriff’s hold on the local electorate, that the impostor did not choose to impersonate any other locally elected official, though some of those names–if an impostor was clueless enough to impersonate them–would likely provoke more laughter and ridicule than concern or investigations.
According to a sheriff’s release issued today, the scammer is “is currently contacting victims on Instagram and Facebook messenger. Instagram, Facebook, and Google have been notified of the fraudulent accounts.” The sheriff’s office had been investigating the incident for days but publicized the investigation today “due to an increased amount of messages from the fraudulent account being received by Flagler residents.”
The release notes: If you are contacted by this account or by someone else claiming to be a member of the FCSO or associated with law enforcement asking you for money in exchange for avoiding jail time or claiming to have money belonging to you, hang up. A law enforcement agency will never call you and ask you for money or disperse money to you. For more information on how you can avoid online scams visit this site.