Fraud is in the air.

While there doesn’t seem to be a common thread — except for victims losing money — fraudsters have been active in Baytown this week. Detectives are following up on these cases.

Fool me once

A 51-year-old man was defrauded of several thousand dollars when he fell for a familiar telephone scam three times over two days.

The man, who lives in the 2600 block of Ward Road, received a phone call Tuesday from someone claiming to be a police officer. The caller told the man he had outstanding warrants and needed to pay $2,500 immediately to avoid being arrested.

As instructed, the man got E-Bay gift cards in that amount and called the scammer back with the card numbers.

The caller called back later the same day and said he had discovered more warrants and needed more money — and called a third time Wednesday morning.

Baytown police spokesman Lt. Steve Dorris said, “These types of scams occur quite often, unfortunately. Citizens should know that law enforcement will never call and demand payment for warrants with the threat of arrest.

“Furthermore, law enforcement, nor any other government entity for that matter, will ever demand a citizen remit payment in the form of gift cards.”

He said that anyone getting this kind of call should make a note of the number the call is from and call the police.

Another common variation on the same scam has the caller claiming to be from the IRS and demanding that back taxes be paid immediately by gift card or money order under threat of arrest.

Sometimes the caller claims to be from the police and claims the money is needed immediately to bail someone out--often the caller will prey on older people by claiming to be a grandchild or other relative who has been arrested.

Common to all of these is an insistence that the matter is urgent and must be resolved immediately and a demand that payment be made by an untraceable method such as gift card or money order.

Wheeler dealer

A 31-year-old man was scammed out of $12,000 Tuesday when he bought a car that turned out to be stolen.

Dorris said the man purchased the car based on an ad on Craigslist. He met the seller at Buc-ee’s in Baytown at about 3 p.m. Tuesday to make the purchase.

Store security cameras captured a good image of the suspect.

Purchases from individuals on online sites always have potential risk. Meeting the seller in a populated place with good lighting and security cameras helps to reduce the risk and assist law enforcement if the deal goes bad.

 Business scams

• Police were called to the Walmart store on Garth Road Tuesday morning at the request of store security in reference to a fraud case.

Dorris said that corporate security had notified the store that it had been victimized by a woman who goes to Walmart stores around the country and fraudulently purchases merchandise and later returns it to another location for cash or store credit.

A laptop computer and tablet valued at $1,700 had been fraudulently purchased elsewhere and returned to the Baytown location.

• A business in the 3100 block of Crosby Cedar Bayou Road discovered Wednesday morning that an unauthorized check for $5,000 had been charged to their bank account.

When the business got a copy of the check from the bank, they determined it was forged and reported it to police.

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