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Clever scams on rise this season


Local experts issue consumer reminders



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November 14, 2007
TRI-CITY AREA — Vigilance is necessary all year, but the last thing anyone wants around the holidays is to be scammed out of their hard earned money.

That why members of the Lapeer County Financial Institution Alert Team (FIAT) wanted to go on record with another round of warnings for local residents.

With every passing day, there is a new, creative type of scam that requires everyone to be vigilant.

"They all have the same goal, just with a little different twist each time," Prosecutor Byron Konschuh said during last week's (Nov. 7) FIAT meeting.

False lottery winnings, counterfeit travelers cheques, people posing as bank officials and the list goes on.

Unfortunately, with more and more people feeling the crunch on their pocketbooks, the offers that come in their mailbox or inbox are all the more tempting.

"Often the people responding to these offers are in bad financial shape already," Carol Yugorowski of Lapeer County Bank and Trust said.

Probably the best mindset to keep is, "if it's too good to be true, it is," Jackie Schriber of Capac State Bank said.

Regardless of the situation, there's never any reason to give out your bank account information or Social Security number to an unsolicited phone call, letter or email.

Again, be suspicious of any questionable check. Banks report that their customers have lost money in a variety of ways, typically when they've deposited a fake check and had to return some of the money to the check's issuer.

Yugorowski refers to a customer who sold his Xbox online for $250. When the buyer's cashier's check arrived for $2,500, the man claimed the bank messed up and asked the seller to send back the $2,250. The check never cleared and he was out more than $2,000.

The same goes for lotteries who send cashier's checks, saying the winner can use the funds to wire an insurance fee. Again, a false claim that can put the victim out several thousands of dollars.

Besides, Det. Mark Reaves of the Michigan State Police said, it's illegal for anyone to participate in a lottery outside of the United States.

Sadly, the scammers are going so far as to pose as bank officials or identity theft detectives claiming they want to help protect your information.

"Your bank will never call or email you asking for your account number, etc. They have that information (already)," Yugorowski said.

In addition to doling out advice to customers, local banks have had to keep a close eye on scams directed at them.

The Michigan State Police Lapeer post is currently investigating a payroll counterfeit check scam that hit Lapeer County Bank and Trust's Imlay City office. Recently, a group of transients, impersonating migrant workers, successfully cashed a number of fake checks created to look like those from a local company.

"This was a big group and they also hit some merchants," Ygorowski said.

"Someone had to have had a real check to make (the fake ones) look that good."

But within a matter of hours after cashing those checks, they had left town.

Sgt. Mark Reaves said he continues to monitor similar reports coming out of other Michigan communities. Anyone with information on the Imlay City incident is asked to contact Reaves at the state police post at 664-2905.

Contact Maria Brown at

mbrown@pageone-inc.com or 810-724-2615.

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