Clifton Police Caution Public Following a $1,500 Scam


On April 2 at around 2 pm a well-meaning woman in her sixties was scammed out of $1,500. She had been doing business at the River Front Center Citibank at 378 Route 3 West when a young man approached her with a sympathetic story. He claimed to have a large check that he couldn’t cash because of issues with child support and asked the woman to give him cash in exchange for the check, which she could deposit into her own account.

The woman sent him the $1,500 from her Venmo account in exchange for a small amount of cash, the check, and his cell phone. A passerby who noticed the exchange taking place tried to subtly indicate to her that this was a bad move, but she had already initiated the transfer of funds. The phone turned out to be a prepaid “burner” and the check was worthless.

The only description she was able to provide was that he was a Black male in his 20’s, dressed all in black.

“Don’t ever give anything to value to anyone you don’t know,” Clifton Detective Lieutenant Bracken said, “It’s always going to be a scam.”

Bracken said that these types of scams, where personable, seemingly nice people approach strangers with hard-on-their-luck stories, happen all the time. Bracken estimates that scams of one type or another happen daily in the city of Clifton, with many going unreported. Elderly victims very often do not report, perhaps because they are afraid that their loved ones will decide that they shouldn’t be living on their own anymore or because they are embarrassed to have been taken advantage of.

This particular type of scam often happens with lottery tickets, too. The scammer will have a story about why they can’t cash the ticket themselves and ask for part of the winnings up front, convincing the victim that once they cash the ticket, they will have the remainder to keep for themselves. Inevitably, the “winning” ticket will be no good but by that time, the scammer will have disappeared.

The Citibank incident was a different take on this same ploy. It’s all about getting money for something upfront for something that is going to happen in the future - cashing a check, making a claim on a supposedly winning lotto ticket. Scammers target the nicest people, preying on their kindness and getting sympathy from them. They often describe themselves as victims of some sort of misfortune or unfairness, causing their targets to feel bad for them. These thieves all present as “nice people.” Con artists have to be charismatic; that’s their whole game.

Especially when the scam involves taking advantage of the elderly, the effects are sometimes much more far-reaching than just the loss of money. The frightening and humiliating incident can affect their health, Bracken said. He has seen cases where a victim passes away just weeks after such an encounter because it affects them so seriously.

“Never, ever, ever give them anything…no matter how sad the story is,” Bracken cautioned. “You will lose your money 100% of the time.”

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