Police Warn of “Movie Money” Scam After Incident in Germantown
The Montgomery County Police Department is investigating reports of a scam that involves suspects becoming involved in private online transactions via social media apps and websites and using fake, prop money to pay for items. The prop money, which can be purchased online, is used in movies and is usually marked, “For Motion Picture Use Only”.
During a prop money scam that occurred in Germantown on May 15, the 18-year-old female victim, identified in news reports as Hannah Buehrle, of Frederick, placed an advertisement to sell her iPhone 6 on the online sales app known as Letgo. The suspect, who identified himself as “Xavier” on his Letgo profile and in text messages to the victim, agreed to purchase the victim’s cellular phone for $450. The suspect told the victim that he only had five $100 bills and would give her the $500 if she would give him $50 in return.
The victim agreed to meet the suspect in the parking lot of the Milestone Shopping center located at 20900 Frederick Road in Germantown to sell him the phone.
During the transaction, the suspect gave the victim a bank envelope that appeared to contain five, $100 bills. The victim then gave the suspect her iPhone 6 and $50 in cash.
Later that evening, the victim attempted to deposit the money into her bank. The bank rejected the deposit. Upon further inspection of the money, the victim discovered the words “For Motion Picture Use Only” written across the top of the five $100 bills. The victim then reported the incident to the police department.
The prop money is available online, where a stack of fake $100 bills will cost about $30.
The suspect in this case is described as an approximately 15 to 16-year-old African American male who is tall and thin. Anyone who has information about this suspect is asked to call the 5th District Investigative Section at 240-773-6237.
Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477). Crime Solvers will pay a cash reward of up to $10,000 for information provided to them that leads to an arrest in this case.
The Montgomery County Police Department has designated Exchange Zones for residents to complete online transactions.
These Exchange Zones are located at each of the six police district station’s lobbies and parking lots (with the exception of the Second District parking lot): For more information about these Exchange Zones, please follow the link:
When selling or purchasing items from an unknown person, the Montgomery County Police Department offers the following safety tips:
- Always meet the buyer or seller at an exchange zone that is well populated, well lit, and preferably at a designated police exchange zone.
- Tell a friend or family member where you’re going to meet someone and when possible, take a friend with you.
- Inform the buyer/seller that you will not be alone.
- Do not invite strangers into your home.
- Never give out any personal or financial information.
- When dealing with large sums of cash, don’t be afraid to tell the buyer that you will want to check the bills for authenticity.
- It is OK to show a buyer that you have an item, but do not surrender it until you have checked the validity of the currency.
- Look for the denomination specific security features. Each bill has a specific watermark and security thread.
- Trust your instincts – if it sounds like a scam or too good to be true, it probably is.