Scam du jour: They're creative, everywhere so beware
Either the nation is experiencing a gigantic wave of scams, or Hubbard County's new seat of power is now called Scam City.
Authorities have been besieged with complaints about scams, through e-mail, phone calls and letters.
Everybody wants money in their own unique way.
And the sob stories are getting more detailed, more aggressive and more pernicious.
Just in the last week:
n A Lake Itasca couple called the Enterprise. They'd been called by someone with a "Pakistani accent" advising them of all the new provisions of Medicare. The man needed their bank account and Social Security numbers to issue their new card. If they refused to give the information, Medicare would cut them off.
"They already had our address and phone number," the husband said with dismay.
n Park Rapids resident Chuck Fuller got called from an alleged grandson.
The detailed history said he'd been attending a wedding in Peru after graduating from the University of Kentucky. He got into a car accident.
"It was very detailed," Fuller said. "The driver ahead of him was swerving all over the road and he had to go up on a curb. He hit a telephone post, broke his nose, knocked the telephone post down and the police arrested him, of course, for DWI."
The tale went on and on. The kid went to the Peruvian embassy for help, got the charges dropped, but he couldn't leave the country until he made restitution for the pole, $1,830, with the money to be sent to Barbara T. Johnson.
"Have you called your mother?" Fuller asked.
The voice said he was too embarrassed and wanted to tell her the story "face-to-face."
Besides, his mother was on a plane.
As the scheme spun on, it started to smell.
Fuller didn't take the bait and alerted Sheriff Cory Aukes.
"You know where they get a lot of this information?" Fuller asked. "From Facebook."
Hacking Facebook pages gives sometimes an inordinate amount of personal information.
"I get a phone call about every two weeks saying, 'Your credit card is OK..., however,'" Fuller said.
n Steve Beaubien forwarded an e-mail he got this week that read as follows:
"I'm writing this with tears in my eyes, my family and I came down here to Manila, Philippines for a short vacation and we were mugged at gun point last night at the park of the hotel where we lodged, all cash and credit card were stolen off us but luckily for us we still have our passports with us..."
The tear-stained e-mail continued in great detail, leaving no small item out.
The writer wanted to be contacted back to set up a money drop.
E-mail spam filters are starting to catch the culprits.
Beaubien's e-mail contained a warning,
"This message could be a scam," the warning read. "The sender's account may have been compromised and used to send malicious messages. If this message seems suspicious, let us know and then alert the sender as well (in some way other than e-mail)."
n Then there was the e-mail sent directly to the Enterprise last Friday, to this reporter, from a Minneapolis friend with the same last name.
Linda Smith (not the food columnist) and a friend were traveling in Madrid, had been mugged, and needed money.
One quick early morning call getting her out of bed confirmed that Smith was nowhere near Madrid.
But the hackers had used her e-mail address from home. When informed this was a scam by the recipient, the e-mailer kept a desperate and continuous series of urgent communiqués.
"My e-mail was not hacked," the writer said. "I know this sounds weird to you due to the hoax going around but we're really mugged... and it's so devastating at the moment and really need your help."
Park Rapids police officer Dean Hulse, who took the report, said it's nigh on to impossible to find the hackers when they're using a legitimate online address they've been able to penetrate.
These "phishing" scams allow crooks access to personal data. Then they're off and running, Hulse said.
Meanwhile he advises never giving personal data to any stranger or faux family member, while admitting it doesn't seem to slow the crooks down.
The Medicare scam was posted on the Enterprise Facebook page, where friends re-posted it along with tales of seniors being scammed out of their last dollar.