Fraud Scams Affecting Local Area

By Lura Jackson

 

While fraud is not a major problem in the Calais area at this time, the local police would like the public to be advised of ongoing schemes that have been affecting residents periodically, along with general safety tips. Calais Police Officer Bill White, who has been a police officer in the local community for 25 years, provided the information.

“The largest problem, by far, are check scams with Moneygram and Western Union,” said White. “A lot of people are falling for it from Calais.” White said that a victim comes forward every few months to report a new incident.

The scam works as follows: potential victims are contacted, either by mail or online, with a request to deposit a check into their bank accounts. White gave the example of receiving a check for $1,000 in the mail. The check comes with a request that the person that deposits it send an amount – such as $600 – via Moneygram or Western Union to another person in a faraway state, with the agreement being that the remaining amount can be kept by the person cashing the check. However, White cautions, the initial check for $1,000 is not a good check. 

White explained that when a check is taken to the bank it is run through a check verification process that only seeks to determine if the checking account it is drawing from is a valid account or not, rather than if the funds are available. The culprits in that case have opened a legitimate checking account but no funds are available in it. The person cashing the check has no way of verifying this, and the funds are made available instantly at the bank. The next day, however, the bank determines that the funds were not available and the check bounces. The person cashing the check is then “on the hook” for that $600, White said. 

“That’s the one that’s really nailing people,” White stated. “It’s not every day all the time, but it’s happening.” White urged anybody affected by the scam to come forward to provide the police with any information they may be able to glean. 

To avoid becoming a victim of this scam, or any other, White advises the public to “never send money via Western Union or Moneygram to someone you don’t know. If it’s your son or someone like that, yeah, you know him, but never send money to someone you don’t know on a promise that a check is going to clear or that they’re going to send you something.”

There are additional precautions one can take to avoid theft. White said that anyone that has a credit card, particularly a chip-enabled card, should purchase a protective card sleeve that prevents data from the card from being intercepted. “They do work,” said White. 

While he hasn’t seen or heard of any incidents in this area, White cautions the public to avoid becoming involved in any international lottery opportunities. “If you get caught up with international lottery and you’re in this country, it’s definitely fraud.” Lastly, White said that the police have been advised of a new technique being used by cashiers in other locations around the country. These cashiers are taking photos of customers’ credit cards when they are handed them and proceeding to utilize the card numbers for their own purposes. Though this is not happening in this area to White’s knowledge, it is something that traveling individuals should be careful to avoid when possible. 

White thoroughly emphasized that if you do become a victim of these or any other kind of scam, the most important step is to notify the local police. For more information about fraud protection, visit www.usa.gov/scams-and-frauds