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People need to be alert to potential scams

Who wouldn’t like to see a check in the mailbox along with a letter promising more money if a few quick steps are followed?

The problem is it’s probably too good to be true — one of the scams that  law enforcement officials hear about and investigate on a daily basis. 

The check in the mail is a popular scam, said Brainerd Police Investigator Craig Katzenberger. The scam presents itself as a lottery or sweepstakes win. All the recipient has to do is deposit the check in their checking account, send money back from their own account to the source to cover taxes and fees and an even bigger prize will be released. 

But, in reality, all that happens is the victim is left with covering the amount. 

“The unfortunate thing is it’s very difficult for law enforcement to do anything once the money is sent,” Katzenberger said. “Prevention through education, more than anything, is the key.”

Katzenberger said other scams people should be aware of include:

• Money requests from friends or grandchildren who claim they’re in an emergency situation and need help. 

• Shopper scams that claim extra money can be earned by working as a mystery shopper. A check is received for the shopping, with a portion of the funds to be returned for a processing fee. 

• The Nigerian letter fraud. It’s both popular through the mail and on the Internet, asking for help in completing a transaction for a large sum of money. The end result is identity theft. 

• Phone scams seeking private financial information, or claiming a loan needs to be repaid.

• eBay or Craigslist fraud, in which items are bought but never delivered. 

Katzenberger said he recently investigated a scam in which a woman was called and told her computer was infected with viruses. The scammers got the woman to enter a line of code with the promise it would clear up the problem. Instead, the scammers got a hold of her personal information and started charging things to her bank accounts. 

Scammers are getting more brazen in their attempts, too, Katzenberger said. Often they will become threatening and tell a victim if they don’t send money they will be arrested. In one case, a potential victim suspected she was being scammed but the perpetrator offered to call police. The scammer called Katzenberger and still persisted even after being told police knew it was a scam. 

“They’re just relentless sometimes,” Katzenberger said. “That’s one of the bad things. These scammers, once they think somebody is somewhat falling for it, they’ll just keep calling and calling and calling.”

While old scams continue to collect victims and new scams are popping up often, Katzenberger said more people are wising up by calling law enforcement instead of writing a check, sending a money order or giving out personal information. Banks and businesses that sell money orders are also better informed and that has helped immensely, Katzenberger said. 

Brainerd resident Dennis Logelin had heard enough about scams to know one when he saw one. On Tuesday he received a letter in the mail saying he won $50,000 from a company called Manulife Financial Services. Enclosed was a check for $3,950 with a request that $2,970 of that amount be mailed back to the company to pay taxes before the entire $50,000 was released. 

The letter, which listed Manulife Financial Services being located in Canada, advised Logelin to not call for validation. In fact, the number listed on the letter went no where, ending with a message that the call couldn’t be completed as dialed. 

“The public needs to be on its toes,” Logelin said. “I watch the news every night, I  read and I know there’s nothing for free out there. No one’s sending out money in the mail and asking for it back in (a money order). I know it’s not right so I called the sheriff’s office and my financial institutions.”

MATT ERICKSON may be reached at or 855-5857.