Shoppers becoming "Pigeon Drop" victims

HANOVER, VA (WWBT) - A crime alert out of Hanover where the Sheriff's Office is investigating a strange scam called a pigeon drop. It's happening in shopping centers along Bell Creek Road, and victims are out hundreds, even thousands of dollars.

The latest case happened in the Walmart parking lot around 10 last Monday morning. The Sheriff's Office says that's what so scary about this crime is it happens in broad daylight in a busy shopping center, so victims don't feel threatened and are in turn too trusting.

"They are lured in; they feel comfortable in these situations, and ultimately lose money," said Capt. Mike Trice with the Hanover Sheriff's Office.

Here's the basics: a victim, usually an elderly person, is approached in a busy shopping center and shown a large sum of money. Another person usually gets involved as well.

"Hey look; I found this bag, or I found this pocketbook, or this wallet or envelope, and it contains a lot of money, and the three or two of you begin to talk about what to do with that money. The victim, who is the pigeon in the pigeon drop scheme, doesn't know that the two are in cahoots to defraud them out of some money," said Trice.

One of the scammers will then suggest that he or she knows a good attorney or financial advisor who can help them split up the money fairly and legally, and here comes the twist, if the victim can fork over enough money to help cover the fees.

"It doesn't make much sense; it really doesn't when you sit back and look at it, but when you have a lot of money in front of you, and you want a piece of it, you want to split it three ways.  If you just put a little money in to get a lot of money, that makes sense, and that's often what happens," Trice explained.

As you can guess, once the victim pays up, the scammers make up an excuse as simple as going to use the restroom and never return. Variations of this type of scam are happening all across the country. In Hanover, Bell Creek is the target because of all the shopping centers, plus, it's close to the interstate.

The Sheriff's Office has notified local businesses to be on the lookout for this crime to be happening to customers in the parking lot.

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