Pigeon drop scam hits Tulsa

Saturday, April 21st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A KOTV Consumer 6 warning about a nasty scheme that costs victims plenty. It's called the pigeon drop scam and it targets friendly seniors and large amounts of their money.

KOTV's Sean Mossman explains how the scam is worked. The criminal targets a friendly-looking elderly person and asks them for a ride somewhere. Then, they convince them into handing over large amounts of cash. Shirley Robinson's seen it dozens of times. An elderly customer walks into her bank and asks to withdraw a large amount, in cash. Robinson says she can usually tell the person's about to become a victim of fraud, but, "We can not prevent them from withdrawing their money, but if it's an elderly person we really try very hard to find out why they need to leave the bank with that much cash."

It happened again Thursday, to a 70-year-old customer of Robinson's F&M bank branch. He was walking to his car after shopping at a local department store when another man approached him. He agreed to give the stranger a ride to a nearby hotel. Along the way, police say the stranger opened a bag showing what he said was $80,000 cash. The stranger said he was illiterate and didn't know what to do with all of that money.

Tulsa Police officer Andy Phillips, "The guy said why don't you put it in the bank. He says I can't read, I can't write, so I don't trust banks." After taking the victim to a local fast food restaurant, police say the stranger and two accomplices go to work. They say the men talk the victim into withdrawing $25,000 cash to prove that banks are safe. The victim agreed and went to his nearest bank branch. Robinson says, "We highly suggested that he leave with a cashiers check or an official check and he just said 'I really need to take the cash with me.'" The man returned with all of that cash, thinking he would be paid handsomely for helping his new friend. But police say the three suspects took the $25,000 and probably left town.

They say that's how most of these scam artists work, moving from town-to-town. But, there is a chance they're still in Tulsa and looking for more prey. Phillips warns, "We need to get the word out. So, that if these guys are still in town that they don't victimize someone else." Otherwise, Shirley Robinson may have to watch another customer withdraw their life savings, only to hand it to another crook.

Shirley Robinson says her bank, F&M, has a standard procedure when a customer withdraws a large amount of cash. The teller must call a manager, who then questions why the customer is taking so much cash. If the manager fears a scam is happening, they may even call police and warn them.