Orange County authorities Thursday warned the public about a car theft ring that hooks victims through a Facebook ad.
Investigators suspect the thieves are targeting the Latino community because they may be less inclined to report the con.
The thieves post Spanish-language ads on Facebook Marketplace and other social media platforms ostensibly looking to hire people to transport money. There have been about 50 cases in Orange County since July.
When the victims drive the money to a location, the thieves say they need to borrow the car to pick up more money to be transported and never return the vehicle.
“They may be hesitant (to report the crime) because they think they may be involved in criminal activity or there could be something questionable about their story, but in reality they’re just true victims of crimes,” Orange County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Ryan Anderson said.
“They know how to manipulate the victims, to get them comfortable to leave their guard down.”
Sheriff Don Barnes said the victims may be going through tough times and believe they’ll get help through a “get-rich quick scheme.”
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said some of the victims may be afraid to call police out of fear they will face immigration issues, but the county’s top prosecutor said they should not worry about that.
“Members of the Latino community are being specifically targeted by these thieves in the hopes that they are too afraid to come forward out of fear that they too may be implicated in a criminal enterprise or have deportation issues,” Spitzer said.
“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. We will not allow these predators to continue to target vulnerable victims just to make a quick buck.”
Anyone who may have been a victim of the con was asked to call their local police department. Orange County Crime Stoppers will accept anonymous tips at 855-TIP-OCCS.