The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office is warning travelers about reports of scam artists targeting people at rest stops on Interstate 95.
The sheriff’s office says it’s received reports from separate incidents in May and most recently, November 1. The descriptions of the men involved are similar, but the operation is a little different.
“One scam is the individual himself approaching the victim and the other scam, another man walks up and says, ‘Hey, this guy is giving away $100 bills,’ so there’s a couple variations of it,” sheriff’s office spokesman Deputy Ken Bell said.
In the May incident, the victim claimed a man approached him at a rest stop and said, “You have to see this, there’s a guy just won the lottery giving away $100 bills.” The Sheriff’s office said the victim followed the man past the truck parking area near the woodline where another man told him he was giving away $100 bills, but only to poor people, and he wanted the victim to show him how much money he had in his pocket to make sure he wasn’t rich.
“So he said, ‘Show me how much money you have in your pockets,’ so the guy pulls out $200 and the man takes it and counts it and then when the victim realized he was being robbed, he asked for the money back and the several other guys who were standing around along with the subject holding his money began to rough him up,” said Bell.
The most recent incident occurred November 1 in the afternoon, when a man approached the victim and said he’d just won $180,000 in the lottery and offered to double the money the victim had on him.
“So the victim handed the man $1,300 in cash and the man counted it,” Bell said. “When he asked for the money back, the man said he’s not giving it back and showed a handgun.”
In both incidents, the men are described as white, in their late 50’s about six feet tall. One had brown hair and brown eyes.
“We’re afraid it’s escalating where it’s getting a little more violent . . . and we’re afraid someone’s actually going to get hurt,” Bell said. So he warns people to be skeptical when approached by a stranger offering money.
“If someone approaches you at a rest area offering money, view it with a critical eye and think, ‘Why would this person offer to give you money?’ It’s just– use a little common sense there,” he said. “Never walk back there because you’re putting yourself in all sorts of danger when you take yourself away from a populated area.
The Florence County Sheriff’s Office says it’s received a report of panhandling at a rest area in July, but the incident was not similar to the ones reported in Sumter County.
If you know anything about these incidents, contact Crimestoppers at 1-888-Crime-SC or the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office at 803-436-2000.