"Beware of Scams"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Friday, June 17, 2016

There ought to be a law – in fact, I think there is.

Federal laws are on the books regarding improper use of the mail. One of the reasons the laws were established was many people, particularly seniors, were being defrauded by mail.

The postal service, with its shortened staffing, cannot check every item of mail they handle. They do collect the postage but unless illegal activity is reported, they don’t have any way of knowing it exist. Much of the deceptive mail has evolved and is now sent via email, but some is still found in the regular mail. The perception by some thieves is; seniors don’t use computers.

People who receive “special offers” in the mail or email seldom check them out before responding. Once they are pulled into the scam, they often continue financially supporting it. When they finally recognize they have been deceived, they are too embarrassed to tell anyone, even their family. The scammers, aware of the victim’s dilemma, demand additional funds by threatening to expose them to their friends and family.

Scams that come via email often begin by addressing you with your correct name, perhaps casually by just your first name. If you don’t recognize the sender, you should throw it out immediately.

Some scams come on fancy letterhead, look official, and announce the sender is a very important person with a familiar-sounding name. They tell you they have a large sum of U.S. funds tied up that they cannot readily access. They say, because you are a highly regarded person, known to be trustworthy, you may be able to help them.

The scam continues by requesting if you receive the wired funds, they will share with you a handsome amount for your help. Then the scam begins – you are asked to send them a smaller amount, to show good faith and it will be refunded via the fee they pay you for your assistance. Many, many people fall for this scam because of the large sums of money promised. It has been exposed in several media sources, but it is still operating because it originates offshore and our government cannot prosecute.

A more recent scam is a cruel hoax whereby you receive a phone call, text or email telling you your grandchild has been jailed in a foreign country and needs bond money immediately. They promise if you send cash, or a money order to them, they will pay the bail and provide a safe place your loved one can stay until there is a court hearing.

This scam often has a second chapter. If you send the bail funds, you get a thank you and a few days later another contact. You are told your family member received a big fine but if you send the amount of the fine, it will be paid and they will be free to return home. This scam can have a third chapter when you are contacted to send more money for airline tickets.

How about the friend named Bob who contacts you saying, “Remember me from school?” They mention some occasion (which you don’t remember, but none of us do that well). They say they are in a bind and could you send a little cash. A promise is made to pay you back double, followed by a suggestion about meeting for dinner to catch up on old times, their treat of course.

A really terrible scam that maligns all fine law enforcement agencies is one you receive on the phone. It is a request for financial support for your local police department. If you stay on the phone, pressure tactics are applied. Tell the caller you want them to stop calling you because they are a fraud. Truth is your local police receive zero dollars from these scammers and would never call on the phone requesting funds. If you wish to contribute to them, stop by their offices and inquire about doing so.

Scams are devised daily by crooks waiting to separate you from your hard earned funds. Some are thought to come from religious people representing specific faiths asking for support for a church project. Often a caller may have read a death notice and therefore knows you suffered a recent loss. The obituary gives the names of all family members which is all a scammer needs to take advantage of a grieving person by referring to one of them.

A current computer scam, put forth by a recognized company whom we are taught to trust, urges us to accept a free upgrade. If you don’t click OK, or say no, they will install it without your consent. If you contact the company, you are told it is necessary and you have to accept it. The fine print on any and all computer programs explains you are only allowed to use them, you don’t own them and therefore changes can be made at any time.

As I see it, scams are going to keep coming, and once caught up in one, it can be hard to escape.

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