Scams strike locally

When in doubt, check it out

Chances are most people have heard of one of the scams being used around the area to try to separate honest, hard-working people from their money, but somehow people still end of falling for it, police said.

In one of the more infamous, an e-mail promises big money in return for helping a Nigerian of some note, a prince or king or wealthy individual, get their money out of a country; just send them some money first.

In others a check arrives in the mail and the recipient is told they have won a lottery. The check appears legitimate right down to the paper being the correct weight and texture, perforations for tearing, and it looks just like a real payroll check.

Deposit it and scammers have your bank account information; cash it and you’re going to owe the bank to cover it, police said.

Another popular bank scam involves “verification” of account information. The caller explains there is an audit taking place or they need account information confirmed because of a suspected security breach. Provide those numbers and someone has the keys to your financial kingdom.

Or a caller promises the delivery of a huge sum of money. You’ve just won the Canadian/Spanish lottery and your prize is on its way, they explain … provided you send some money first.

Granville Village Police are urging residents to use caution after a recent surge in the number of scams like these being reported locally.

Granville Police Chief Ernie Bassett Jr. said the advice is age-old but still holds quite true today: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” he said.

In one of the prevalent scams of the time, Bassett said, callers claim to represent the Canadian Lottery and ask for a modest sum to cover expenses related to getting the victim the money, often for “insurance” or to “secure an account.”

In the case of one local woman sending an initial $150 only led to another call asking for $500, this time with another purpose. She finally balked at a request for $1,300 to pay for a courier to bring the money to the United States.

“I’ve only known one person who won the lottery and that was because he and his wife played the lottery,” patrol officer Greg Bourn said. 

Bassett and Bourn said they dealt with recent scams in various forms, five in the past two weeks.

Bourn said he had a rather heated conversation with a Jamaican man who answered the phone when he called the number of a scammer. The man cursed at him each time he called back, he said, and made threats to come to Granville and assault the officer. Bourn laughs and said he’s not in the least bit worried for his safety.

The man on the other end of the line was unabashed and readily admitted to being a part of an international phone scam, according to Bourn. “They ask us, ‘What are you going to do about it?’” Bourn said.

As it turns out, nothing.

Bassett said he alerted the Secret Service to the scams and was surprised by the response he got.

Their response was to do nothing, he said. He said they aren’t interested in the cases because of their inability to do anything about them.

Bassett said he was told the agency doesn’t go after the scammers because of the cost involved in attempting to bring just one of these criminals to justice. “They told us our best bet was public awareness,” Bassett said.

The police chief said he found that answer frustrating because someone, somewhere would invariably slip through the cracks and not read the newspaper story or miss the television news report and end up giving their money away to criminals.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is,” Bassett said.  Because of the economic downturn and harder times for regular people scams are on the rise and people are more likely to be desperate enough to believe, Bassett said.

A North Street man came to the station because he was suspicious when he received a notice in the mail.

“He was really hoping it was legit,” Bassett said. “He kept saying, ‘Are you sure, are you sure?’” he said.

“If somebody promises you money but you need to send them money that’s a red flag that that’s not legitimate,” he said.

The bottom line? When in doubt call the police.

Any legitimate agency dealing with a prize or lottery would not hesitate to speak with law enforcement.

If there is any sort of pattern to the attempts, Bassett said, they seem to predominantly target older residents although not always.

Recent published reports told of the so-called “Gram Scam” where a caller claims to be in jail, in desperate need of bail money from grandma. The only problem is there is no jail, no arrest and not even a grandson.

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