Fraud finds friends … and me

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Almost every day we hear of a new fraudulent scheme on the telephone or the computer.
I have personally experienced the IRS phone call, about four times. In case you haven’t received this, it’s what we call a Robo call, a recorded message saying this is the IRS and you owe thousands of dollars on your taxes. If you do not send a check immediately you will be arrested. Then it leaves a phone number for you to call back and find out how much you owe.
That has been going on for about four years and recently six people were arrested in Miami, Florida in connection with this fraud. But my friends are still reporting that they are getting those calls, as late as last week. Apparently others are involved in this scheme, too.
Who would fall for that? All you have to do is call the IRS fraud line and they will help you with all of it. As was reported on television in Florida, the IRS will never call you. They always communicate in writing.
I reported on the grandparent scam a few years ago. One of my friends was called by a person claiming to be his grandson in trouble and needing money. My friend said it sounded like him, but he became suspicious when he was asked for $5,000 to be wired to Canada to get his grandson out of jail.
My friend, being too smart for this, called his own son and asked where his grandson was. He reported he just talked to him and all was fine. Now there’s a guy who was on the ball and checked it out, but I have heard of others actually wiring money to the required address.
Just recently I received a request from someone in Nigeria who supposedly had $50 million in an account and all that was needed from me was $50,000 to help him get it out. Then he would share with me. Seriously, are you kidding me? Of course I deleted that.
Last week I had the chance to do some investigative reporting. A message was left on my recorder that said it was the Collier County Sheriffs office (Naples, Fla.) calling me (used my name) about a certain case number, which was given to me, and that I needed to call them as soon as possible. I have spent some time in Collier County and thought I better check on this. First, I checked the phone number with the Naples, Florida directory and saw that the number did not match any of the ones in the phonebook.
Slightly suspicious, I returned the call and got a message saying all deputies were busy and if it was an emergency call 9-1-1, otherwise leave a message and they would call me back. I thought this seemed kind of odd, but I continued to call and finally someone answered saying just hello. I asked who he was and he said he was a sheriff’s deputy from Lee County. Now that is Fort Myers and I truly have nothing to do with that area, plus that wasn’t the message that was left for me. Now I’m really suspicious but not quite sure I should be rude to this guy just in case it was real.
I had a strange feeling about the whole thing, so I decided to hang up, not giving him my case number. I then called the Collier County Sheriff’s Dept. and was told the department had no such case number. The officer gave me the Lee County Sheriffs Dept. and it also had no such case number. Now I know this was some sort of scam.
I decided to go along with it to hear their pitch. I called back several times, but there was no answer. Later I was told by a friend this matched a scam which says you owe fines and if not paid immediately a deputy will be arriving to arrest you. Great! I have no such fines, but think how someone might fall for it. I sure hope they call me back!
Now here’s a local scam on a smaller scale. A friend recently told me this story. Her house is located off the road at the top of a long driveway. It was cold outside, dark and late in the evening. The door bell rang and she opened the door a bit. A young man identified himself and she realized she knew him vaguely and he mentioned her son. It was so cold she asked him inside. He started telling a sad story about helping his mother who was out of town. He needed $80 for gas to get to her, promising he would repay the money. Then he added that he had leukemia and she saw he was using a cane.
Now she thought he was moving the cane around a lot and felt uncomfortable and that this was maybe a scam. She decided she just wanted him out of there. Her husband had gone to bed and she didn’t feel she could get immediate help if this guy got physical.
Her purse was close by and she had about that amount inside. She knew when she opened her wallet he would be able to see her money so she decided to give him the entire amount he asked for – $80 – to get him out of her house. He left and she felt that she’d never see the money again and that she shouldn’t have let him in her house.
Her adult children advised her to notify someone about what happened. The Union County Sheriff’s deputy told my friend the department had several complaints about this young man doing this around the area. An officer spoke with the man and he promised to return her money, but that hasn’t happened yet.
So here’s my advice – think about the situation before you open your door!
(Melanie Behrens – melb@marysvillejt.com)



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