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Person impersonates Columbia police officer to scam coffee shop


A Columbia coffee shop said Monday that it was scammed this week by a crook pretending to be a cop.

Fretboard Coffee posted on its Facebook page Monday after a scammer stole the shop's entire cash drawer and reserve cash while impersonating a Columbia police officer.

Owner and roaster, Dave Elman, said the scammer told an employee that someone had passed counterfeit money at Fretboard and convinced a staff member the business was under investigation.

"They said we want you to take all the cash that is there and everything in the safe and everything in the drawer, close the shop and take the cash and buy these untraceable gift cards with it and the read us back the numbers so we can deposit it into a fraud management account," he said.

The business then contacted the Columbia Police Department to report the incident and was told this is the second small business in the past few days to be scammed using the same tactic.

CPD spokesman Jeff Pitts said Columbia police will never ask for personal or financial information from any person or business on the phone.

"Scammers are able to spoof official phone numbers which means the receiver believes it it a valid call," he said. "Neither Columbia police nor any law enforcement agency will ever contact anyone to request payment for something over the phone under any circumstances.

Elman said since the incident employees have had conversations about how to handle scams over the phone.

"It's unfortunate that they used fear and intimidation and these crazy times we are in to prey upon someone who didn't really know how these things work if they were true."

The scam comes at a bad time as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hurt businesses, Fretboard said.

"We also recognize that many people out there are hurting financially due to the pandemic and might be acting in desperation. It’s hard for so many people right now, but it just sucks that someone is targeting our community’s small businesses in this way," the post said.

Fretboard says it is working with CPD to try to make sure this doesn't happen to any other business.

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Zola Crowder

Zola Crowder joined the ABC 17 News team as a multimedia journalist in June 2020 after graduating from the University of Missouri with a broadcast journalism degree. Before reporting at ABC 17, Zola was a reporter at KOMU where she learned to cover politics, crime, education, economics and more.


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