Scammers find new targets in Jamestown areaWhen it comes to Internet, phone and direct mail scams, law enforcement officials say the types and methods change all the time, but one red flag remains the same: wiring money. “If it has to do with wiring: alert,” said LeRoy Gross, detective with the Jamestown Police Department. “Bells should go off.”
By: Katie Ryan, The Jamestown Sun
When it comes to Internet, phone and direct mail scams, law enforcement officials say the types and methods change all the time, but one red flag remains the same: wiring money.
“If it has to do with wiring: alert,” said LeRoy Gross, detective with the Jamestown Police Department. “Bells should go off.”
Theses types of scams are reported to the Jamestown Police Department about once a month, Gross said, and everyday, dozens of people get e-mails, phone calls or letters from scam artists. But to protect yourself, never wire money unless it’s to someone you know, he said.
“Once you wire it, it’s gone,” said Police Chief Dave Donegan.
These sort of scam artists used to prey on the elderly or other vulnerable members of the population, but recently, people in their 20s, 30s and 40s have fallen victim too, Gross said.
“It’s not really the old people anymore,” he said.
The scams — which include lotteries where the winner has to pay to get money, secret shopper jobs where the victim cashes a fake check and then wires funds to the scam artists, or phone calls from “relatives” claiming they’re in a hospital, jail or customs checkpoint and need money — target people looking to get rich quick and people who, naturally, want to help their families, Gross said.
“This grandchild scam is a good one. Everyone wants to help their grandkid,” Donegan said.
The problem is, once the money is wired, there is little law enforcement can do, Gross said. Many times, the money leaves the country.
“I’ve never solved one,” he said.
Parrell Grossman, director of the attorney general’s consumer protection and anti-trust division, said to his knowledge, no consumer has received restitution for these kinds of scams.
“The likelihood that that North Dakota consumer will receive restitution is almost nil,” he said.
Some of the letters, e-mails and phone calls seem realistic because the scam artist knows so much information like date of birth, place of employment, medical history and names of family members, Gross said. Scam artists get that information from wedding announcements, obituaries, genealogical sites, mailing lists, social-networking sites and contest entry forms. Many companies offer discounts or prizes to customers who sign up and give personal information like e-mail addresses and phone numbers. Those companies can then sell that information and sometimes it gets in the hands of scam artists, Gross said.
“If you’ve entered a contest, you’re on one of those lists,” Donegan said.
When in doubt, check with the police department first, Gross said, or do some checking on your own. For the grandchild-in-a-jail-or-hospital scam, for example, look up the phone number and call the organization yourself. Don’t trust a phone number the caller gives you, Donegan said.
If you get a check in the mail, make sure the bank clears it (which can take two or three days) before you spend the money, he said.
When buying or selling online, don’t wire the money, Donegan said. Check, credit card or third-party groups like PayPal are safer, but not 100 percent fool-proof, Grossman said.
Many times, victims are embarrassed to report the crimes, he said, but they shouldn’t be.
“It’s possible for anyone to fall for some of these particular scams,” Grossman said.
For more information or for questions regarding a potential scam, contact the Jamestown Police Department at 252-1000 or the Attorney General’s office at 800-472-2600.
Sun reporter Katie Ryan can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org