Polk County investigators are now warning residents about a sophisticated computer scam that duped a Vietnam veteran out of his life savings.
A 71-year-old Lake Wales man contacted the Polk County Sheriff's Office saying he was the victim of a money transfer scam where scammers tricked him into mailing thousands of dollars overseas.
"How could I be so dumb, I always thought I could take care of myself," said the victim, who asked ABC Action News to not reveal his identity. "But here this guy ropes me and throws me right in, no idea what was going on until it was over with."
Detectives discovered 49-year-old Robert Ratkovcic, of Orlando, was the convincing con man behind the scam.
PCSO issued an arrest warrant for Ratkovcic for charges of fraud, money laundering, and grand theft. He is currently in a Marin County, California jail on fraud and grand theft related charges.
"That rascal has got the appropriate name, Ratkovcic, because he is a rat," said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
Sheriff Judd admitted Wednesday that this is a complicated computer scheme and they are still trying to connect the dots to other scammers operating in Thailand.
The fraud has already claimed victims in Florida and Columbia, Mo. Sheriff Judd suspects at least four more victims in Florida.
“These scammers are disgusting in how they take advantage of people, often seniors, stealing tens of thousands of dollars. They appeal to seniors’ honesty, not greed," said Sheriff Judd. "They trick people into believing that they have been overpaid, then they deceive them into sending them their hard earned savings. I don’t understand how these thieves can live with themselves.”
The victim reportedly responded to a pop-up ad on his commuter to buy an anti-virus software package for $499.99.
Computer problems started after the software was loaded onto his computer. The victim then contacted the phony software company for support. A man who identified himself as Alan Brown responded and requested remote access to his computer for help with repairs. Brown later notified the victim he was entitled to a $500 refund due to the computer problems. Brown obtained the victim's bank account information, according to PCSO, to facilitate the refund.
According to the Sheriff's Office, instead of the $500 refund, $5,000 was deposited into the victim's personal bank account.
"So when he's reimbursing them the $4,500, because he's an honest man, he's reimbursing them from his checking account and never looks in the savings account and he lost money."
That $5,000 deposit was money that scammers moved from the victim's savings into his checking account.
In the end, investigators believe Ratkovcic helped swindle $60,000 from the victim's accounts.
"Don't let anybody ask you for money if you don't know them," said the victim.