Officials arrested the man they believe is responsible for a string of scam phone calls targeting elderly residents.
Kino Roper is facing several theft by deception charges and is expected to face more charges from federal and local agencies across North Alabama. However, officials warn there are more scammers out there.
"This is just one person," Brent Patterson of Madison County Sheriff's Office said. "They are everywhere. They are nationwide."
Patterson said deputies went above and beyond their call of duty when they started seeing an uptick in scams in the last month.
"When you've got a situation where criminals come out and target — intentionally target — the elderly citizens in our community to rip them of their life savings, we have a serious problem with that," Patterson said.
Patterson couldn't go into detail about how the suspect was found but said they were able to use new technology to get some leads.
"It's a cat-and-mouse game," he said. "They have their resources. We have our resources."
On Sunday, they arrested Roper and found $166,000 in cash.
"Greed got them arrested," Patterson said.
Roper is accused of pretending to be a lawyer and asking people for money to help a loved one pay bail or legal fees. Officials said the fake lawyer would even tell the victims a legal gag order was in place to keep them from telling anyone. They would then lie to say the order was violated to scam people out of more money.
"People have said, 'How are people just giving money away like that?' You'd be surprised what you do when you're scared and it's involving a loved one," Patterson said.
Some of the victims gave away their life savings. Some of that money will go back to the victims. However, Patterson warned some of the victims may not be able to get their money back.
Unfortunately, this situation is not unusual.
"It's just devastating when they realized they've been conned, and we just want to avoid these tragedies as much as possible," Jamie Harding with AARP Alabama said.
She's seen a rise in scams during the pandemic.
"Isolation and loneliness can really create perfect conditions for con artists to take advantage of someone," Harding explained.
She said knowledge is power against these scammers.
"The more you know about how they operate," Harding said. "They better you can protect yourself."
Harding said scammers use several tactics, like calling in the middle of the night or threatening victims, to make them give up their hard-earned cash.
"They try to make you feel fearful, and they also prey on your feelings for your loved ones," Harding said. "This is how they make their living. They practice. They try different things. Keep using what works, and they will sell your phone number to other criminals, so they can try to take advantage of you as well."
Harding said she recently heard of two men in Mobile who took their lives after falling victim of a scam and losing their life savings.
"These are very upsetting crimes," Harding said. "Very upsetting situations, especially for people who have worked their whole lives and save their money. To have it taken under false pretences like criminals, it's devastating."
She hopes victims of the scam in North Alabama do not lose hope.
"Please don't be embarrassed," Harding said. "Just please don't feel bad about yourself. We don't want them to feel anything other than victims of a crime."
She urged victims to reach out to their loved ones for their support.
"Your family loves you," she said. "They don't love your money, so we want people to reach out for help. Don't go through this alone."
Officials encourage residents to listen to their gut, hang up when they get these types of calls and check in with loved ones or local law enforcement agencies.
"Verify this information," Patterson said. "Do not give people money that you don't know."
Officials said Roper is suspected of working with a network of individuals. So far, they've identified a second suspect as Christopher Roper. At this time, their relation is unclear. Investigators are following up on some leads right now and expect an arrest soon.