Alexandria residents regularly at risk for fraud attempts, says police department investigator

Since January 1, 2022, nearly 100 reports of fraud and attempted fraud have been filed with the Alexandria Police Department.

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ALEXANDRIA — A post published by Integrity Title Inc.'s Facebook page on Monday, June 27 warns of an uptick in wire fraud from criminals impersonating title companies, lenders and agents.

Hannah Wagner, file coordinator for Integrity, says the title company is seeing a rise in wire-fraud attempts within the Alexandria Area. The criminals behind the fraud are reaching out to potential homebuyers under the guise of title companies, Realtors and banks asking for money to be wired to cover things such as closing costs or down payments.

The culprits usually reach out via email but in some cases use text messages.

Wagner says about four years ago, Integrity had clients scammed out of money after they thought they had wired money for their closing cost to the title company's bank account.

Jill Wagner, president of Integrity, was working through the closing process with a couple attempting to purchase property in the area and asked for a cashier's check to cover the closing costs when the couple said they already wired the money to the Title Company's bank account. While Jill went to check if the money made it into the account, the couple pulled up the email with the wiring instructions.


"It wasn't from us. It was a scammer," said Hannah. "They contacted the receiving bank and were able to find out that as soon as the money hit that receiving bank's account, it was taken out of the country."

Hannah says the scams have been averaging about one attempt a week for the last month, which is why the company decided to share a Facebook post.

Detective Sergeant Tony Kuhnau of the Alexandria Police Department says scams are an ever-present problem. While the scams Integrity's post referred to deals with property purchases, the APD deals with a wide variety of scams. Sometimes the scammers pretend to be title companies, banks, or Realtors. Other times they are pretending to be family members in need of financial assistance.

"Portraying to be in a romantic relationship, and then exploiting money through that is probably the most common one," said Kuhnau.

Tony Kuhnau, Sergeant
Tony Kuhnau, Sergeant

To date, there have been 55 fraud and 45 fraud attempts reported to APD since the beginning of the year.

Kuhnau says the criminals behind the scams use social media to gather as much information on you as possible to make the scams more believable. The more they know about you, the easier it is to exploit you. The detective said that while senior citizens are taken advantage of at a higher rate, anyone is a potential target for scammers. And because a majority of the criminals are from out of the country, making an arrest is nearly impossible.

"Quite often what we find is that our victims are related to other victims in a chain," Kuhnau said. "Our victims here will send their money to a routing number or bank account associated with another victim in another state. If we're able to get that contact information, it's only to find out that that person was also the victim of the scam. And then the next step for the money is some other country and that's when we lose our ability to have any authority.

"It's an incredibly low success rate for making convictions," Kuhnau added. "Our whole goal is to get the money back or stopped as soon as we can."


The APD can be successful in retrieving the money through warrants if they get the information in a timely manner.

Tips from Integrity's Facebook post:

• Always verify the email addresses that you are corresponding with. Often scammers will try to impersonate a trusted contact by utilizing a slightly different email address, hoping you won’t notice.

• Always verify wire instructions. Using a verified phone number, call the company you are wiring your funds to and confirm that the wire information you have is correct.

• Never respond to suspicious emails or click links asking for more information. The more info these scammers have, the easier it is for them to pass off their communications as authentic.

• If possible, ask your bank for a cashier’s check instead of a wire transfer. We will always accept a cashier’s check for your cash-to-close figure, no matter the amount.

Kuhnau advises being suspicious of everything. He says it's like the old saying, "If it's too good to be true, it probably is." He says it is always OK for people to call or come to the police department to check if something is a scam. You can contact the APD at 320-763-6631. The department is located at 501 3rd Ave W, Alexandria.

Thalen Zimmerman of Alexandria joined the Echo Press team as a full-time reporter in Aug. 2021, after graduating from Bemidji State University with a bachelor of science degree in mass communication in May of 2021.
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