It's a crime police say is victimizing more Midstate residents every day: money fraud. For one Spring Hill man, what started as a potential business deal turned into something much worse.
Philippe Smith snapped a passion for photography into a business a few months ago when he lost his daytime job. So, when he got an inquiry about a possible photo shoot, he responded.
"He was wanting someone to photograph a company event that he was having in Columbia, and he wanted me to get back to him with prices," Smith said.
But, the man on the other end of the phone call quickly wanted more than just prices.
"He asked me to do him a favor, because his party planner did not have any way to charge credit cards," Smith said.
Smith finally agreed to the request, and said the potential client provided the needed credit card information.
In the end, Smith received a payment for more than $1,200, which was to be sent to the so-called party planner.
"I had received probably 300 text messages and about 50 phone calls wanting me to get this money processed," Smith said.
Smith said he then walked into a store and wired nearly $1,000 through Western Union to a person in Georgia. At the request of the sender, he did that not once but twice - the second time to a different person, which police say is a huge red flag when it comes to a scam.
"Why wire fraud is so popular is because it's basically like sending cash. It's hard to stop and hard to track once it gets to its destination," said Spring Hill Police Det. Michael Foster.
Foster said this type of fraud is usually done on the internet, and the victim never meets the scam artist.
Smith said since he has been scammed, he's received similar calls from other potential scam artists.
Foster said while this is one of the hardest types of crime to prosecute, there are some simple ways to protect yourself against scams in the first place.
Most importantly, never send a money wire transfer to someone you've never met in person.
"There's always an excuse about why they want to. It's usually not reasonable if you just sit and think about it," Foster said.
Smith said he regrets sending that money, which his credit card company now wants him to pay back, but he also wants others to learn from his mistake.
"These guys that do this, they have no feelings anybody but themselves," he said.
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