Fraud strikes Pequot residents
Certain wise words pass the test of time.
And whoever said, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” was ahead of the game in terms of the abundant frauds and scams aimed at separating hard-working people from their money.
A recent scam hit Pequot Lakes residents when a newspaper ad appeared to offer part-time employment as a teenage girl’s tutor.
Pequot Lakes Officer Rich Hogan said tracking down the criminal or criminals involved in the fraud is like chasing ghosts.
There are plenty of scams out there — a wealthy Nigerian needing assistance to access inheritance, a grandson in a Canadian jail needing bail money, an offer to get rich quick with little or no effort.
In Pequot Lakes, the offer took on a twist by targeting people who — in a tough economy — may be in need of earning more money.
The scam offered $60 an hour working three hours a week to tutor an eighth-grade student in such subjects as math, science and reading. Tutor sessions could take place at the student’s home, the tutor’s or a nearby library in the morning or afternoon. The scam stated the parent was in the United Kingdom and was relocating to the area with the daughter and a nanny arriving first. Initially, all the contact was online through emails. Later, they spoke over the phone.
The catch came when the prospective tutor was asked to cash a check, say $3,000, and take out $300 for their advance and then send the rest to the nanny for travel expenses. The money was to be wired by Western Union or MoneyGram.
The next call the prospective tutor gets is from the bank saying the check, which did have real routing numbers for a bank in New York, is a fraud. The phone number the tutor called earlier was no longer good.
Hogan investigated the fraud and found a couple of people in the Pequot Lakes area were affected by it, but one was out the money. Hogan contacted the FBI.
The FBI has an Internet site dedicated to complaints of cyber crime called the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov. Complaints may come from the person defrauded or from a third party to the complaint in what the FBI describes as a easy-to-use way to report suspected crime or civil violations. The FBI also has information on common crime schemes and prevention tips to avoid being a victim.
Doug Oswald, Garrison, recently reported an email scam to the FBI. The email, complete with official-looking seals and details from the HBI and an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from Nigeria, threatens legal action, possible arrest and charges of terrorism, if the recipient doesn’t respond with a $350 fee to the Department of Homeland Security in Los Angeles.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center reports the FBI does not send unsolicited emails and doesn’t email official reports.
Incorrect use of English can be a tip about an email’s true origins as can the email addresses for responses. For the official-looking, threatening government letter, the contact person at the Department of Homeland Security had an aol.com email address that did not match the type used in the rest of the letter. The Internet Crime Complaint Center advises people not to respond to the email or click on an embedded links, which may contain viruses.
During these tough economic times, Hogan said the tutor scam targeted people looking for work and used a stolen credit card to place the newspaper ad.
For Hogan, who said about five people recently contacted the police department on a variety of scams, including the two with the tutor fraud, it’s a cautionary tale that may help others avoid falling into the trap.
Hogan said it’s a reminder to be protective of your information and not to provide data over the phone or put bills or receipts in the trash without shredding them. People should be wary and skeptical of any transaction where they are required to send money to a third party or back to the sender, Hogan said. Common offers for fraud scams come from Africa, the United Kingdom and Canada, Hogan said.
Victims may feel embarrassed they were taken in and thus be reluctant to contact law enforcement. But Hogan said while they may never see their money again, the information they provide may be ultimately useful in catching the criminals or at least help in warning others.
“You just feel horrible for them,” Hogan said. “There isn’t much you can do, but you try to do the best you can and treat them with dignity. You don’t like seeing anybody have that happen to them and they are still out the money.”
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.