Don’t get fooled again – New scams target county residents |

Don’t get fooled again – New scams target county residents

There’s a sucker born every minute, the old saying goes.

But in this age of countless get-rich fixes that are seemingly burning up telephone and Internet connections, Alta Sierra resident Roy Crain wasn’t about to fall for a scheme that seemed too good to be true.

Crain knew right away the telephone call he received recently from a telemarketer claiming to work with the Canadian Customs Service was suspicious.

The caller, who said his name was Jeffery Simms, said his agency had received a letter addressed to Crain and his wife. The caller told Crain that the envelope looked suspicious, so he opened it himself.

The letter stated that Crain’s wife had won $200,000 in a contest – which Crain quickly found out to be a scam.

Nevada County has had a spike in reports of telemarketing and Internet scams over the past several weeks, Sheriff Keith Royal said. The scam presented to Crain is just one of several updated frauds meant to cheat people out of their money.

“There is a new scam born every day,” Royal said. “People can get lax if (the scams) are not fresh in their minds. If they seem to good to be true, they generally are.”

In Crain’s “Canadian contest” fraud, the scammers went out of their way to feign legitimacy.

The caller alleging to be from Canadian Customs told Crain the agency thought the check to be suspicious and called the Canadian bank that wrote it, named Standard Life. The customs agent said bank officials told him the check was real.

The customs agent even gave Crain a toll-free telephone number for the bank.

Crain decided it was time for the scammers to get scammed themselves. He called the number and left a message. His call was returned 10 minutes later by someone claiming to be a bank official who was familiar with Crain’s winnings. The check was real, Crain was assured.

“It’s a very clever scam,” Crain, 80, said.

Crain then called the customs agent back and again had to leave a message, which was returned 10 minutes later. The agent told Crain that he would send the check only if Crain paid a 1 percent tax to the Canadian government and asked Crain for $2,000 – 1 percent of $200,000.

Crain did not believe the man. After he hung up, he looked up the Canada Border Service Agency and found a phone number that was different from what he was given by Simms.

“They said this thing has just been going wild,” Crain said.

While statistics were not available for 2004, the Canadian anti-fraud agency PhoneBusters logged about 700 reports of the customs scam in 2003. Local telemarketing-scam statistics were not available from the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.

“We periodically will have a group (of scammers) that targets our community,” Royal said.

Royal said he believes the spike in fraud reports is due to someone targeting Nevada County, and that it is difficult for the sheriff’s office to investigate these crimes because the telemarketers do not live locally.

Crain did not fall for that scam, but that did not stop scammers from locating and attempting to lure Crain, again and again.

He soon received a telephone call from someone claiming to be from U.S. Customs.

“They said they had received a check saying we had won a lot of money,” Crain said. “I have had five of those calls (since then).

In this variation of the scam, the caller told Crain he would deposit the check into Crain’s account if Crain would just give the caller his checking account number.

Crain said he thinks he and his wife have been targeted with so many phone calls because his wife has signed up for several contests and may have had personal information distributed or sold to scammers.

In dealing with these scammers, Crain seems to be wise in more than just years.

“I catch these things, but others are ready to send in the money,” he said. “Do not give anybody any money in any shape or form – you will never see it again.”

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