Scams are common, target everyone

B y Jaime Thomas

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Yet people, old and young alike, continue to fall for scams that promise an enticing prize – for a small price.

Such is the case of a young Granville veteran in his late 20s who recently fell prey to a fast, online bank loan. The man, who did not wish to be named, was looking to keep his current accounts in order.

“I applied and it sounded legit. It was three different companies, and they were all consistent; they wanted me to pay money to get money set up,” he said. The three companies each withdrew $30 amounts from his bank account and asked for his social security number as well, which he provided.

But the various $500 to $5000 loans they promised him never materialized. And when he called the contact phone number, the person he spoke with was foreign and could not help.

“I’ve tried dealing with them and called them and told them I’d contact police. The phone was really static-y, and it had to be an overseas person,” he said.

And he’s not alone. Local law enforcement officials say fraud cases have become more popular in the last six to eight years.

Whitehall Police Chief Matt Dickinson said it’s typically elderly people who get caught up in scams, and he blames the issue in part on the current economic climate.

“Times are tough, and people get desperate. The more desperate we get the more trustworthy we get as a society,” Dickinson said. “It has a lot to do with the economy. If they had enough money in their pocket, nine times out of 10 they wouldn’t respond.”

He also thinks technology has allowed scam artists more and easier access to their victims.

Ernie Bassett, Granville’s police chief, said a large percentage of these criminals live overseas in Canada and elsewhere. He said he often hears about them contacting the elderly saying they won the lottery and need to send a little cash in order to get paid a large return.

“Never does that happen—there’s no such thing we’re aware of where you have to send money in to get money back,” Bassett said.

The veteran mentioned above said he has clipped his debit card, but the scam groups still have access. A Google search of one of the companies, Fastloan4me, shows a number of complaints and “Ripoff reports.”

Though he said he’s tried to stop them, emails from various companies, which he suspects were spread around like a virus, continue to flood his inbox. He didn’t go to police, but he did finally contact his bank, who is dealing with the issue.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much police can do to combat this type of crime because the source is so far away, which makes it difficult financially and practically to enforce.

Bassett said there are two main ways to protect against such scams: Never provide personal information to a source that can’t be verified, and do not send money.

“If you don’t provide personal information and do not send money, they can’t do anything,” he said. And for those who have already sent money or information, it’s important they notify their banks and any other pertinent officials to look for anything amiss.

“It’s a problem all the way around. The best thing to do is to go the police and report it—people need to be aware,” Dickinson said.

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