With the inclusion of, and the relatively new world of technology and the “Information Super Highway”, predators are finding more and more opportunities to victimize our citizens. From Internet scams to mail fraud to fraudulent schemes out on the street, our citizens are falling prey more and more to those criminals who want their money and who have no concern for how they get it!
We are all becoming familiar with, and using the Internet to do everything from paying our bills to making purchases and socializing. When making purchases on the Internet, please ensure that you are familiar with the vendors and you can trust they are legitimate and safe. You should be extremely careful when agreeing to meet someone to make a purchase of items you see listed on an Internet website. Law enforcement has investigated many incidents in which a citizen has agreed to meet with the seller of an item only to learn they have been set up to be robbed. Stolen property is often sold via the Internet. In any case if you agree to meet someone to purchase or even sell property via the Internet please make sure the meeting is in a well populated area and never proceed alone.
In today’s tough economic times many of our citizens are using the Internet to find work and there are many sites on the web that offer assistance in finding a job and resume writing. Keep in mind your resume contains personal information that could be used by a criminal for monetary gain, especially identification theft. You should never pay up-front fees over the Internet to an employment vendor unless you have researched the site and you are sure the business can be trusted.
Mail & Email:
I am quite sure that, by now, almost everyone with an email account has received the email offering large sums of money for helping someone “settle and estate” (usually from some foreign country), or the one where you have won a large sum of money in a contest. There are all kinds of “red flags” in these emails and yet we still have citizens willing to send money, to “cover taxes” or as “processing fees” for these scams.
Another popular mail and email scam is where the criminal will make arrangements to send the victim a check, usually via entities such as “Fedex” or “UPS, with instructions to cash the item and then return a certain amount, in a money order, to the sender. The reasons for returning funds vary from taxes to processing fees and even “prize sharing”. The victim later finds the document they cashed was a forgery and the victim is then responsible for the entire amount of the checked he/she cashed. Some suspects will go so far as to instruct the victim to cash the check at a local check cashing business instead of a bank.
A caution here about the mail; criminals continue to target stand alone mail boxes to steal mail. This is a major source for identity theft and credit card and check fraud. In many of these cases, the victim has no idea their mail has been stolen until criminal activity begins to surface against the victim in the form of credit card bills, over-drawn accounts and poor credit.
Whenever possible, if a stand alone mail box is all that is available for mail delivery at the home, citizens should consider using a post office box.
REMEMBER; NOTHING COMES FOR FREE, ESPECIALLY VIA MAIL OR EMAIL!
The oldest form of “street fraud” is the selling of discounted property, primarily electronics, from the trunk of a car in a public/business parking lot; “red flag”. Police often respond to citizens who have purchased electronics from an unknown suspect in a parking lot only to learn their purchase does not work. We’ve seen electronic “shells” sold to our citizens that appear original and even new. The citizen takes the item home, plugs it in and, of course, it does not work. Upon removing the cover from the product the victim finds items placed inside to simulate weight, and nothing else. Fake jewelry is also sold in this manner.
Citizens should avoid these type purchases at all cost.
Another, more recently highlighted form of street fraud is where a suspect targets a citizen, usually the elderly, while they are parked in a public place. In two recent incidents the victims were parked at a restaurant and a bank. The victims returned to their vehicle and immediately noticed a problem when they started the car. Two suspects then approached the victims and offered assistance. The suspects indicated they knew what was wrong with the car and offered to immediately make the necessary repairs for a fee. In both cases, the suspects drove the victims to their (victim’s) bank where the victim withdrew the funds and gave money to the suspects. The suspects then fled with the money. In these cases it was learned the suspects had actually caused damage to the victim’s vehicles while it was parked and the victims were inside the business.
If you find your perfectly good vehicle suddenly has mechanical problems, call for assistance from your mechanic, call a family member or friend, or if all else fails, call police to assist you. This is a true “stranger danger” situation and you should avoid conversations with people you don’t know.
In all of these situations, please remember; nothing is free, if there are “red flags”, please pay attention to your first instincts, use caution when making Internet purchases and when meeting strangers, and don’t buy property from the trunk of a car.