By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Old scams snag new victims as holiday season swings into gear

Crime only pays if you give up your hard earned money to flimflammers

 

December 13, 2017

Photo courtesy AARP

Scammers often use public information from internet sources to look for people to victimize.

No, you still cannot pay fines with gift cards - and that bearer of bad news that called you asking for money to save your grandchild from peril is a crook.

"I think some folks just don't hear about it," Lt. Dan Mott of the Valdez Police Dept. said in an interview Monday.

A number of Valdez people were duped into parting ways with their hard-earned cash in recent days, as scammers become more sophisticated in how they con innocent people.

Take the example of the person who was duped into buying a $1000 gift card to pay a non-existent court fine.

"A caller reported receiving a call from three police officers advising her that she missed jury duty and a warrant was out for her arrest," Valdez Police said last week. "The call sounded very convincing and the caller was then instructed to go to the court house to get a form and a gift card for $1000 and mail to the US Court Clerk in Fairbanks."


Bill Johnson for Alaska House

While it may seem naive on the part of the victim - everyone knows you can't pay government fines and fees with gift cards right? - the scammers claimed to be police - and chatted with the victim about local people and events.

"They name dropped," Mott said, using the names of real police and even asked about the recent school board meeting. "'Yeah, I talked to Chief Hinkle,' They use some local knowledge."

In the internet age, all of this information was available to anyone with a computer and internet connection - including how the victim was targeted in the first place - missing jury duty.

"Just to reiterate, don't give out your personal information," even if the caller seems to know a lot about you, your relatives and the community, Mott said.

And again, you cannot pay civil fines with gift cards. If there is any question in your mind regarding paying a court fine, go to the court clerk in person or call the court yourself - and do not call to verify using a number given by the caller - look up the phone number in the phone book or simply call the police.

"You go to court and get a receipt," and pay that way Mott said.

Another person in Valdez lost money in a popular scam where the caller claims to represent a grandchild in danger and in need of funds.

"They kind of go after elderly folks," Mott said. "The claimed to be a relative."

The problem is widespread and world wide according to experts.

AARP runs a website geared towards helping everyone - not just the elderly - avoid scams, especially around holidays.

Photo courtesy AARP

Numerous scams involve gift cards as payment - but scammers also copy information from gift cards before they are sold and later verify it is activated and steal the balance without ever touching it.

 

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