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Scammer Targeting Victims At Ft. Lauderdale Publix

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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – “He took me! That’s all there is to it! I was a dope!”

Feeling embarrassed and ashamed, an 87-year-old woman is hiding her identity after being caught in a pricey scam. CBS4 will call her Mary.

It all began when she was getting out of her car at the Publix on Federal Highway and Oakland Park Blvd in Fort Lauderdale. She had trouble with her door.

“I tried to get it shut,” Mary explained, “you know how you slam it and it wouldn’t move. “

Mary tells CBS4’s Ted Scouten that just as she was trying to get out of the car; a guy calling himself Jim Gross walked up. Turns out, he may have actually secretly slipped something in the hinge between the door and car to keep it from closing.

But he told Mary not to worry; he worked for a dealership and could fix it.

“He said (it was) the sensor in the lock of the other door,” Mary said. “But he could have probably told me the moon was made out of green cheese and I would have believed him at that point.”

Here’s where Mary really got a shock, his bill.

“I said, ‘how about if I give you $40 dollars?’ He said, ‘that’s fine,’ but Gross said, ‘now you owe me more.’ I said, ‘well what do you want?’ He said ‘$3,000.’”

Gross drove her to the bank in her own car, got the cash and left.

Mary’s not the only one who fell victim. Jane knows this story first hand;.she was scammed too in the same parking lot as Mary a week before with the exact same story. But she got lucky.

When Gross drove Mary to the bank, again in her own car, she only got taken for a $1,000.

“I knew I was being taken,” said Jane, who also didn’t want to be identified. “But I thought, ‘What can I do to get out of this?’ I just gotta go along with what he tells me to do.”

Both victims say guy didn’t look intimidating or shady.

“He was an average looking person, dressed very nicely,” recalled Mary. “He was very nice. He was very low key, he was well groomed. He had good command of the English language.”

In the end, though, Mary figures his scam boils down to one thing, “He’s a pro!! He’s a pro! And I’m an amateur. And that was it!”

Whoever’s doing this is likely counting on the fact that the victims are too embarrassed to come forward. Fortunately, several have.

If you have any information that can help investigators give Broward Crimestoppers at call at 954-493-TIPS.

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