by Chief Steven J. Wojnar
Dudley Police Department
Our department continues to receive numerous complaints from residents about a variety of “scams.” Some people are asked to provide personal or bank information. These can take place in person, on-line, over the phone, or by mail. As a result, people may be out large sums of money. I wanted to remind everyone to be aware of these illegal activities.
These money scams have been occurring for many years. Those responsible prey on unsuspecting individuals, in particular the elderly. Their goal is to obtain either quick cash or other personal information, such as bank account numbers. Armed with this documentation, the criminal can commit identity theft and access your finances. Some scams will inform the victim they have won a prize or that they are eligible for some gift or benefit. They will ask the victim to provide personal information. This information can then be used to open accounts or conduct other identity theft crimes.
People may receive an unexpected check in the mail, along with a letter informing them they won a prize. Others may receive a check as payment for the sale of a particular item. Often these checks are written for a much larger sum of money than was originally intended. For example, you negotiate a deal to sell an item or you are told you have won a prize totaling $100. You are then sent a check for $1,000. The scammer contacts you and asks you to send the $900 balance back to them. Their goal is for the victim to cash the $1,000 check and send the $900 balance back to them immediately. In many of these cases, the original check turns out to be bad and the scammers may receive the victim’s money before anything can be detected.
Another type of scam surrounds people receiving a phone call or e-mail telling them a relative or friend has been arrested. These are most often based in a foreign country. Elderly victims are frequently targets of this type of activity. They can be fooled into believing their grandchild is in trouble. The suspects ask for bail money to be wired to them in order to get the person out of jail. This is most likely a hoax. Never send money just based on this type of contact. Be sure to contact other family members or the police for assistance.
The important thing to remember is do not conduct business transactions unless you are sure of the people and places you are dealing with. Many of these scams ask for your money to be sent to places outside the United States. If you are not expecting something (money or other items), chances are it is a scam. Be very cognizant of these occurrences and report them immediately to the police and or your bank. Protect your personal information. When in doubt, ask a question of the proper authorities to avoid becoming a victim.