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Midland Police Department urges public to be aware of scams - Odessa American: Law Enforcement

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Midland Police Department urges public to be aware of scams

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Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2013 11:28 am

The Midland Police Department stated it has received several reports regarding phone scams that are targeting Midlanders, so police are warning the public to be aware of the situation.

"Victims of these scams are told by suspects that they are winners of 'Publishers Clearing House' or 'Million Dollar Mania' and are asked to send a deposit through Money Grams or Green Dot Cards," the City of Midland stated in a release. "Some victims have received checks in the mail and are then asked to deposit the check in the victim's bank account. They are then told to withdraw a portion of the check and send the money to an address where the money is wired to another bank account. The victims of these scams have no contact with the suspects after sending the deposit."

These phone calls are coming from an out-of-area area code.

Here are some scams being used on people, according to the release:

Fake check scams:

  • Fake check scams are clever ploys designed to steal someone's money. You can avoid becoming a victim by recognizing how the scam works and understanding your responsibility for the checks that you deposit in your account.
  • If someone you don't know wants to pay you by check but wants you to wire some of the money back, beware! It's a scam that could cost you thousands of dollars.
  • There are many variations of the fake check scam. It could start with someone offering to buy something you advertised, pay you to do work at home, give you an "advance" on a sweepstakes you've supposedly won, or pay the first installment on the millions that you'll receive for agreeing to have money in a foreign country transferred to your bank account for safekeeping. Whatever the pitch, the person may sound quite believable.
  • Fake check scammers hunt for victims. They scan newspaper and online advertisements for people listing items for sale, and check postings on online job sites from people seeking employment. They place their own ads with phone numbers or email addresses for people to contact them. And they call or send emails or faxes to people randomly, knowing that some will take the bait.
  • They often claim to be in another country. The scammers say it's too difficult and complicated to send you the money directly from their country, so they'll arrange for someone in the U.S. to send you a check.
  • They tell you to wire money to them after you've deposited the check. If you're selling something, they say they'll pay you by having someone in the U.S. who owes them money send you a check. It will be for more than the sale price; you deposit the check, keep what you're owed and wire the rest to them. If it's part of a work-at-home scheme, they may claim that you'll be processing checks from their "clients." You deposit the checks and then wire them the money minus your "pay." Or they may send you a check for more than your pay "by mistake" and ask you to wire them the excess. In the sweepstakes and foreign money offer variations of the scam, they tell you to wire them money for taxes, customs, bonding, processing, legal fees, or other expenses that must be paid before you can get the rest of the money.
  • The checks are fake but they look real. In fact, they look so real that even bank tellers may be fooled. Some are phony cashier's checks; others look like they're from legitimate business accounts. The companies whose names appear may be real, but someone has dummied up the checks without their knowledge.
  • You don't have to wait long to use the money, but that doesn't mean the check is good. Under federal law, banks have to make the funds you deposit available quickly-usually within one to five days, depending on the type of check. But just because you can withdraw the money doesn't mean the check is good, even if it's a cashier's check. It can take weeks for the forgery to be discovered and the check to bounce.
  • You are responsible for the checks you deposit. That's because you're in the best position to determine the risk; you're the one dealing directly with the person who is arranging for the check to be sent to you. When a check bounces, the bank deducts the amount that was originally credited to your account. If there isn't enough to cover it, the bank may be able to take money from other accounts you have at that institution, or sue you to recover the funds. In some cases, law enforcement authorities could bring charges against the victims because it may look like they were involved in the scam and knew the check was counterfeit.
  • There is no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire money back. If a stranger wants to pay you for something, insist on a cashier's check for the exact amount, preferably from a local bank or a bank that has a branch in your area.

Grandchild in trouble/friend or relative in accident scam:

  • The phone rings. A voice says it is your grandson or granddaughter and he or she is in trouble - in jail, or involved in a car crash in Canada or stranded in some foreign airport.
  • This grandchild needs you to do two things.  First, you must send thousands of dollars for getting out of jail, paying bail, hiring an attorney, whatever. Second, you must not tell the parents. "Mom would kill me!" the voice pleads.  Ignore those requests. Instead, do these two things:

First, take the caller's number and hang up. Tell the voice on the phone nothing. No credit card numbers, phone numbers or even your full name.

Second, call that kid's parents immediately. Ask: "Where is my grandchild?"

Your grandchild is not in jail or stranded somewhere. The kid may even answer the phone. This is a massive scam. It has cost many grandparents in Utah thousands of dollars. Why does it work?

But, you ask, "Why does that sound like my grandchild on the phone?" My caller and my friend both insisted the voice sounded right.  This is where phone technology meets the human brain.

Digital technology in cell phones strips voices of most of their sound fidelity. When a tinny voice comes through the static and says it is your granddaughter or grandson, your brain fills in the blanks.

A huge red flag is that scammers always say, "Send the money fast!" You need to go to your bank today, get cash and take it to Western Union or MoneyGram.

It would be a huge community service if banks, Western Union and MoneyGram would train their employees about these scams.  It's easy to say, "It's not our business what people do with their money," but preventing crime, especially against the elderly, is everyone's business.

Online purchases:

  • If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The way con artists lure people into their scams is by offering irresistible deals.
  • If you can't meet with the buyer or seller in person because they're out of the country or are sick, or for any other reason, you should proceed with extreme caution.
  • The seller wants to use an online escrow service of their own choosing.
  • The seller asks that you wire the money to an overseas account. Especially be wary when they request that you use Western Union, as many scammers use this service.
  • There is an urgency to the transaction. Either someone else is looking at the car or they have to sell it in a hurry. Scammers use a sense of urgency to force buyers to do things they wouldn't normally do if they had enough time to think it through.
  • The only contact information is an email address and the buyer or seller claims they don't have a phone number to give you.

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