LYNNWOOD, Wash. - The Lynnwood Police Department is warning locals of an ongoing scam that's happening from Costco parking lots.
The scam itself is not associated with Costco, but rather, involving a stranger asking customers for money in the parking lot, the department said.
In these scams, a man has approached women in the Costco lot and asked them to talk with his "attorney" on his cell phone. The "attorney" has then requested the victim take the man to a local fast food restaurant lot where another man is waiting and somehow to the pair convince the victim to "loan" them money with the promise of a return on their investment, according to the police department.
These women lost between $5,000 and $10,000 that they will never get back.
One woman, who didn't want to be identified because she's embarrassed that she was conned out of $10,000, said she fell victim to a similar scam at the Fife Costco parking lot
"I fell for it," the victim said. She said she was approached by a woman who flashed a bag full of money. The woman couldn’t speak English well and told the victim she was lost.
"She has all this money all rolled up," the victim recalled.
A man posing as the woman’s attorney gets on the phone asking the victim to help the woman donate $200,000 to various churches before the woman had to fly back to Africa that same day.
The woman offered the victim $10,000 for her help. The victim said she refused the offer but felt compelled to help her anyway because she seemed so desperate.
"I let her in my car and took her to a church. I Googled the closest church," victim said.
When they got to the church, a man ended up walking up to their car and offered assistance, but the victim later realized he was also a part of the ruse.
The scammers managed to convince the victim to drive them all the way from Fife to a bank in South Lake Union to withdraw money.
The victim said the scammers asked her to pull money out to show she was serious about helping them and that she was not going to run off with the charity money.
The victim pulled out $10,000 from the first bank but was asked to go to another bank and withdraw more money. When the victim got back to her car, the crooks were gone with her money.
"If this didn’t work, people wouldn’t be doing it, so we know it does work and unfortunately there are probably more victims," said Lynnwood Police Spokesperson Joanna Small.
Lynnwood police say this has happened twice in the last three months.
With the Lynnwood cases, instead of a church, the scammers asked the victims to drive them to a fast food place.
"Some people are more vulnerable than others. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with them. We know older people tend to be a target in this situation. Often English is a second language so those who don’t have a good understanding are often a target because it’s easier to convince them to do something when they don’t fully understand what they are committing to doing," Small said.
"Instead of jumping to conclusions about what kind of person would fall for this— have a conversation with your older or more vulnerable family members or anyone in your family who may have trouble understanding English. Please remind them NEVER to give money to a stranger, especially when there is an incongruent, elaborate story involved," the department said on Facebook.
Since none of the victims were "forced" to give money, it's difficult for police to pursue criminal charges.