NORTH READING — Local police are asking the public’s assistance in finding the con man who last week cheated a Beverly woman out of hundreds of dollars.
According to North Reading Police Chief Michael P. Murphy, on Friday, July 26, a 19-year-old Beverly woman was contacted by a man who said he needed her to babysit for his 9-year-old daughter.
The woman babysits for a number of families and it is not unusual for her clients to give out her number.
She agreed to meet the man, who said his name was “David,” outside a home in North Reading, where she was to pick up the girl.
When she arrived, she told police, there were two dogs running around the yard as well as “David” and the young girl.
The woman said she took care of the girl for approximately three hours, taking her to a Dunkin Donuts and a nearby park, before returning her to “David” at the same house.
“David” then wrote her two checks, totaling $3,360 and instructed her to deposit the checks using mobile deposit on her phone before taking the physical checks with him.
He later called called her back and said he had paid her too much and instructed her to purchase iTunes gift cards and read the numbers off to him to pay back the balance.
The woman went to a local store, purchased the $500 in gift cards — the daily cash-withdrawal limit on her debit card — and gave “David” the numbers. Later on, the checks she had previously deposited in her account bounced due to insufficient funds.
The suspect aggressively tried to get the woman to buy more gift cards and he allegedly became angry when she explained that she reached her spending limit, at one point threatening her.
The woman filed a police report and the North Reading Police Department has initiated an investigation.
She described the suspect as a Hispanic male who spoke with a pronounced accent. The 9-year-old who the suspect identified as “Ali” is described as 4’ to 4’6” girl with a heavy build. She did not speak with any accent. The suspect may have two German shepherds and may be operating a late model “boxy” Honda Pilot type sport utility vehicle with suitcases and duffel bags piled up in the back seat.
The house where the victim met the suspect and the girl was in foreclosure and is unoccupied. During the pickup and drop off, the suspect met the victim outside the home and he was never seen going inside.
North Reading police are concerned for the welfare of the child used in the scam as well as for the Beverly woman and other innocent women who may fall victim to his con.
The North Reading Police Department renews its warning to never give a pre-paid debit card or gift card number to a stranger. Pre-paid debit cards and gift cards are not legitimate ways to pay for goods and services. They are as good as cash to the extent that, once funds are transferred the money cannot be recovered, and the victims lose their money forever.
“This is a deeply disturbing and unfortunate real-world scam situation. In recent years, we have seen countless examples of these scams and cons executed online and via telephone, but rarely do citizens encounter a brazen scammer in-person,” Chief Murphy said. “Thankfully, the bank’s withdrawal limit on the victim’s account likely saved her thousands of dollars in lost funds. Most disturbing to me is the suspect using a 9 year-old-child to help facilitate the scam. We’re hopeful that someone from the public recognizes the photo of the suspect so that we can make sure that the child is safe.”
Citizens should also be extremely suspicious of anything that appears “too good to be true” such as a person offering to dramatically overpay for goods or services.
Due diligence is also recommended when accepting a personal check from someone, especially someone you do not know well.