Scams: Know the red flags – don't end up on losing endScams. They happen everywhere, all the time, to all types of people. Young, old, rich, poor – to a scammer, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is making money. And in most cases, lots of money, thousands of dollars at a time.
By: Celeste Beam, Alexandria Echo Press
They happen everywhere, all the time, to all types of people.
Young, old, rich, poor – to a scammer, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is making money. And in most cases, lots of money, thousands of dollars at a time.
Folks living in small town rural America, such as Douglas County, are no less or more of a target than citizens living in big cities like New York or Los Angeles.
On a weekly basis, Douglas County law enforcement officials are notified of someone who was scammed or someone who thinks they might be getting scammed.
Because of this, the newspaper talked with authorities to find out what people can do so they don’t end up being on the losing end of a scam.
Sergeant Dave Ahlquist with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said people should learn to be a little more skeptical and to always believe in the saying, “If it’s too good to be true. It is.”
“Always be suspicious,” Alhquist advised. “And use the same reasonable thought process and same judgment as you would if making a deal face-to-face. If it doesn’t make sense, don’t do it.”
He couldn’t reiterate enough for those making deals over the Internet or over the phone to use the same prudence as they would in their day-to-day affairs.
The Internet, said Ahlquist, is a great place to do business – if done properly. He quickly added, however, that unfortunately, technology has made it easier for those “creative little criminal types” because the method of communicating and getting information out there is quicker.
Ahlquist said there are four warning signs that should raise the red flag when making a deal.
First, is if the deal involves exchanging cash through Western Union or MoneyGram. Although these are both legitimate, credible businesses, Ahlquist said scammers are using those services for the wrong reasons – scamming money from people who, for lack of a better term, are too gullible.
The next one, which Ahlquist was careful to explain, is if the person on the other end of the deal has poor English skills – whether speaking or writing.
Thirdly, he said, is when money has to be sent to a foreign country.
And last but not least, Ahlquist stated one more time, “If it’s too good to be true, chances are it’s bogus.”
One other sign that a deal probably shouldn’t be made is if the person on the other end is high pressure, forceful and quick to get the deal done, said Ahlquist.
One of the more popular scams, Ahlquist said, is what is known as “secret shopper” or “shadow shopper.”
People are solicited through a phone call or e-mail and told that they will receive money to go shopping. A package is then sent overnight to the person and it will contain a money order or a check.
The person is then asked to cash the check or money order, take part of the cash to purchase some type of merchandise, keep part of the money for themselves and then send the rest of the money – through Western Union or MoneyGram – to some unknown person.
What happens in many cases, explained Ahlquist, is that before anyone realizes it, the money is taken out of the account of the person cashing the check or money order, but the check or money order turns out to be counterfeit.
Most scam operations work the same way by using counterfeit checks and/or money orders or asking someone to front a large amount of money for a product that the buyer will probably never see.
If someone suspects a scam, he/she should call law enforcement immediately – before any transaction takes place.
“We’ll be happy to talk to anyone that has a question,” said Ahlquist. “Let’s try to work it out before any money is exchanged.”
“Scams have been around since the beginning of time,” said Ahlquist. “It’s just gotten easier with Web sites and e-mails.”
HERE’S WHAT TO DO
If you suspect you’re the target of a scam, call either the Alexandria Police Department at (320) 763-6631 or the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office at (320) 762-8151.