OC Spanish-Speakers Left Broke, Without Their Cars By Get Rich Quick Scheme Advertised On Facebook Marketplace
SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — Car thieves targeting Spanish-speakers looking for work on Facebook Marketplace have stolen vehicles in almost 50 cases since last summer, according to authorities in Orange County.
A joint warning released Tuesday by the Orange County District Attorney's Office, the sheriff's department, and the Tustin Police Department says thieves have been targeting members of the Latino community under the guise of hiring them to transport money using their own vehicles.
Since July of 2021, authorities have investigated more than 50 cases of people being left without the promised pay and their vehicles because they were purportedly taken to another location to be loaded with money to be transported.
The scheme traditionally begins on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist or other well-known social marketplaces. "It could be posted as a job, or a task, that just seems too good to be true," said Sergeant Ryan Anderson with the Orange County Sheriff's Department. "It could be that they're offering thousands of dollars for you to transport something, and then when you meet these suspects - in a parking lot or in a public area - a conversation occurs and victims are being deceived into leaving their vehicles."
They are often promised upwards of $5,000 to assist the suspect in a money transfer. When the suspect leaves for a "secret place" to get the money, is when the real scam occurs.
"The victims were left waiting on the street for their vehicle to return and the thieves never came back," authorities said in a statement.
Some of the victims were hesitant to contact police about the thefts.
"These criminals are preying on those who may be struggling financially through advertising get-rich-quick schemes," OC Sheriff Don Barnes said in a statement.
Targeting members of the Latino community is a double blow to every victim, particularly because some may be too afraid to come forward that they will be implicated in a criminal enterprise or have deportation issues, and because many families only have one vehicle.
"Many people have to rely on a single vehicle for transportation for their entire family to go to work and school and having that vehicle stolen is devastating," Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement.
Of the vehicles being targeted, the thieves have often stolen SUVs, trucks and other high-demand, everyday cars like Hondas or Toyotas.
"People have to be aware that if there's some red flags that go up in your mind, or if it just doesn't make sense that they're asking you to do things that seem a little risky to you, you're probably on the right track," Anderson said. "Don't trust them."
Anyone who believes they may have been a victim, or may have been solicited for a similar scheme can contact their local police agency, or submit an anonymous tip to OC Crime Stoppers at 855-TIP-OCCS (855-847-5227) or at occrimestoppers.org.
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