Sheriff Joe Hagerty has an important message for seniors (and everybody else) in the community: “Don’t be a victim of crime.”
It may seem like a simple message from the county’s top lawman, but he had specific warnings, sharing examples of exactly how crafty criminals can separate unsuspecting consumers from their hard-earned money.
The sheriff recently made a presentation at the Crow River Senior Center in St. Michael.
He noted how former Monticello publisher Don Smith’s email account was hacked and used for a common scheme.
“Once they get in your email they send a message, ‘I’m traveling overseas and I lost my luggage. I need you to send me money.’ Well someone ended up contacting (Smith) and asking if he’s okay. ‘I’m fine.’ ” Well in this case it’s good he’s fine but for others the check was already sent.”
Hagerty said it’s very difficult to not only track the money but to get it back. He said such schemes typically originate out of the country.
Another scheme he mentioned specifically targets senior citizens. In that one the scammer calls a senior and says, “Grandma or Grandpa I got arrested,” or “I’m in the hospital” … “and I need you to send me money.”
Unsuspecting seniors fall for the scam before they even realize the caller wasn’t really their grandchild.
“Never send money that way,” Hagerty said. “Call us. One hundred percent of the time it’s baloney.”
In another scam, Hagerty said someone attempting to sound official, such as from the FBI, would call and tell the person that they are being investigated for illegal pharmaceutical distribution from Mexico and that they will be summoned to court.
“They said send $3,000 and we’ll make it go away,” he said. “If anything doesn’t sound right, don’t bite on it. Ask for a name or number and to call back. If you do send money there’s not a lot we can do. We need you to report it so we can see trends.”
And he mentioned the “age-old” scam where someone from a foreign country, usually in Africa, says you’ve won a sweepstakes but need to deposit a check for a processing fee.
He said another scam that doesn’t involve the phone or computer is where someone offers a “legitimate” service, such as paving a driveway, only to charge exorbitant fees for a shoddy product. Often the “company” selling the service isn’t licensed or traceable.
“If it’s too good to be true, it just is and it’s not worth doing,” Hagerty said. “If you get someone unsolicited coming to your house, call us. We want an ID on anyone going door to door.”
He said many cities require licenses for such door-to-door sales.
Other scams to beware of: anyone claiming to be from a credit card company, Internal Revenue Service or Social Security saying they need your account information or Social Security number.
Lastly, the sheriff warned all about a scam that took place at the Monticello McDonald’s where a teen employee used a “card skimmer” to steal credit card numbers. Criminals have employed similar devices at places like gas stations where cards are routinely scanned.
“Make sure you check your accounts frequently,” he said. “Make sure the money you deduct is the amount you want deducted.”
Above all, the sheriff had this message: “Question everything.”