Uptick in scams noted
Scams they know about are concerning enough, but Marion police are particularly worried about victims who don’t report financial crimes.
Chief Clinton Jeffrey and assistant chief Steve Janzen have noticed an uptick in residents being duped by scam artists. They’re taking a couple of reports about financial crimes each month.
Some involve men sweeping middle-aged or older women off their feet on social media and then asking for money, credit cards or gift cards. It’s possible the scam artists aren’t even men.
One scammer, Jeffrey said, took on a celebrity’s identity. The woman thought he was who he said he was.
“She was in love with this guy and super embarrassed,” Jeffrey said.
He asked her to send money to “his” charity.
Eventually, she realized, “it’s probably not him,” Jeffrey said.
Scams involving requests for gift cards are becoming more common, Janzen said.
“The gift card thing is out of control,” he said. “One lady was sure the Lions Club was going to get $300,000 if she sent $2,000 in gift cards.”
The scam artist involved was not affiliated with Lions Club. No legitimate nonprofit organization would ask for gift cards, Janzen and Jeffrey said.
A dollar store once called police when an elderly woman came in to buy $500 in gift cards, Jeffrey said. A clerk thought something might be amiss, he said.
Most of the time — especially when scams involve cryptocurrency — police can’t recover money for people. Often scam artists are overseas.
Janzen and Jeffrey said many people who’ve been ripped off don’t want to admit it.
The officers try to be empathetic. What bothers them is that people scammed often don’t have a lot of money. The money they lose might be all they had to live on for a month, Janzen said.
The average loss is $800 to $1,200.
To avoid scams, they urge potential victims to take these precautions:
- Research people wooing them on social media. Do they have any friends on their account? Does it appear they only recently created a profile?
- If someone asks for gift cards, which scam artists resell or cash out, stop communicating with him or her.
- If someone claims to be buying you something valuable — such as a car — but first needs you to pay shipping or other fees upfront, stop communicating.
- Block phone numbers you aren’t familiar with. If someone cold-calls you, use Google or another search engine to check the number.
- Never share financial or personal information including bank account and credit card numbers, and your Social Security number. Don’t give out your address.
- If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Last modified Oct. 27, 2022