March 26 • 06:23 AM

Scammers dip to new lows

Area women report being targets of ruthless, creative con artists

February 18, 2009
IMLAY CITY — Shortly after losing her husband, Jane Kramer (not her real name) noticed something peculiar and now she's downright steamed about it.

With the grieving process still fresh, she received a notice from her "bank" in the mail, advising that she'd have to call the phone number listed to change her accounts.

She didn't. Instead she made a visit to the local bank and was advised that she did the right thing—the official looking letter was a scam.

A few weeks later she received another notification that she'd won some money, but had to go through a few motions to get it.

Just this week, Kramer (who for obvious reasons asked that her real name not be used) received yet another prizewinning envelope—with a 'check' for the funds included.

Under the 'Publishers Clearing House' masthead, the letter tells Kramer that she's a second place winner in the grand prize draw sponsored by Reader's Digest Magazine. That means she's won a million dollars!

"Congratulations!," the letter states. "The Publishers Clearing House will make all necessary arrangements in order for you to receive your prize," it continues, "Enclosed in this letter is a certified check to cover any outstanding fees that has not been paid by PCH directly."

Indeed, a check for $5,935 was enclosed. The check is from the account of Tri State Concrete in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is drawn on the Fifth Third Bank of Cincinnati, Ohio. It looks official. Apparently the recipient isn't to question why Tri State Concrete would be issuing the prize money.

Except Kramer did. Already sick of being targeted, she wants to spread the word to others so they won't be taken in.

"This is the third time I've gotten something like this and I'm sick and tired of it," Kramer says. "I want to get the information out there and make sure others don't get taken."

Kramer says she noticed that the scam letters started coming after her husband's death.

"I think they go through the obituaries," she says.

Kramer says she heard the same thing happened to a 96-year-old woman who recently lost her husband, and that makes her angry.

"I want to make sure that these scammers don't get away with it," she says.

Unfortunately, scammers did recently "get away with it" when they targeted an elderly Dryden Township woman we'll call Marge Knight.

In November Knight received an urgent phone call from her granddaughter, who said she was in Toronto on business and was in a car accident. The caller said she needed $1,000 right away, and that she'd pay grandma back when the insurance money was received. Knight, being the caring grandma she is, made arrangements for the money to be wired to Canada.

She's now out $1,000. Knight's daughter called the granddaughter, who lives in Virginia. She didn't know a thing about it—she wasn't in Canada and she wasn't hurt. Unfortunately, Knight was—in the pocketbook.

According to Dryden Police Chief Larry Pack, this and and other scams are hitting the area with frequency.

In the past weeks he's taken several reports from people who are selling items online at e-Bay or Craig's List.

"People are buying the item and sending a check for twice what it's worth and telling the seller to cash the check, keep their portion and return the rest and of course the check isn't good," Pack says. "We're talking $14,000 or $15,000 checks."

Fortunately, the calls he's taken are from folks who didn't cash the checks.

As for Knight's scam, Pack says it's been going on for a while.

"A granddaughter or grandson will call and claim they're in an accident or their car's being towed or they're in jail and they need money," Pack says. "It's usually a wire to Western Union and when it comes to tracking it down, you can't do it."

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